Monday, November 7, 2011

Biological Chips Research Paper

Research Paper on Biological Chips

Today's typical chip or microchip usually consists of a semiconducting material known as silicon and contains an electronic circuit. Chips are usually less than square inches while it contains millions of transistors ("chip", Webopedia). The small size of chips helps them make computers "fast, compact, and inexpensive". Chips are also referred to as integrated circuits and they are the hallmark of present day computers ("chip", Microsoft Encarta).

Researchers in computer science and biology are currently looking to implement a new type of chip composed of biological elements such as fragments of DNA. These chips are called biological chips (biochips) (Stikeman, 2001). Roughly any device that incorporates biological or organic materials upon a substrate that is solid can be called a biochip.

The manufacturing of biochips has two major requirements. First a silicon chip has to be constructed using extreme precision. Secondly, lots of care must be used while dealing with delicate DNA molecules (Kailkhura, 2002). Affymetrix Inc., of Santa Clara (Kailkhura, 2002) is a company that pioneered the biochip technology (Economist, 1999), which incorporates biotechnology with semiconductor manufacturing techniques. Affymetrix "was the first to introduce semiconductor chip manufacturing technologies to the world of biotechnology".


Early in the 90's, the company's research group found that photolithography, the conventional method by which circuits are etched into silicon, "could also be used to synthesize biological materials on a chip". Affymetrix borrowed the technology used by the microprocessor industry to create its biochip, instead of reinventing that technology (Kailkhura, 2002). A brief description out how Affymetrix, the leader in biochip technology creates its biochip, is delineated in the following:

- Affymetrix makes chips by building up vertical strands of DNA in success layers, a process akin constructing an entire city of skyscrapers one stores at a time. Each store is one of the chemical bases of which DNA is composed. These bases come in four varieties. To decide which variety should be added to each strand during a single round of construction, light-sensitive chemicals and lightproof masks are used. The entire chip is exposed to light through a mask. It is then flooded with bases of a particular type, which stick on to the exposed areas. Repeating this process four times for each storey (with a separate mask for each type of base) results in the desired pattern of 20-floor DNA skyscrapers (Kailkhura, 2002).

- Biochips and conventional circuits (ICs) are manufactured using similar techniques; however, biochips carryout biochemical reactions (Kailkhura, 2002). While computer chips can execute millions of arithmetical processes in a second, biochips can carryout thousands of biological reactions (i.e. decoding genes) (Kailkhura, 2002).

Currently the greatest need for biochips is in healthcare technology. The chips will be used to understand the role of genes health and disease. They will also help speed up the drug development process, enhance diagnostic tools, and aid in determining the most advantageous treatment for certain diseases. Other uses for the biochip include constructing handheld devices that will test microbes in food and the identification of criminals by using their DNA. Other uses for biochips will be to detect biological and chemical warfare agents (Kailkhura, 2002).

Although the greatest need for biochips is in healthcare technology (Kailkhura, 2002), perhaps it will find its way into personal computers systems. Researchers are yet exploring the biological computer systems. "Scientists seek to create cells that can compute." These particular cells will be given "intelligent" genes that will be capable of adding number, store them, keep track of time, and possible execute small programs (Garfinkel, 2000). Biochips will possibly be incorporated within the construction of biocomputers.

Even with all of the research and discoveries that has taken place thus far regarding biochips, the industry is still lacking standardization and prices for the chips are exceedingly high. As time progresses, we as consumers can expect companies to refine the development technologies so as to reduce the cost of biochips and make them more widely available (Kailkhura, 2002).

Warning!!! All free online research papers, research paper samples and example research papers on Biological Chips topics are plagiarized and cannot be fully used in your high school, college or university education.

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