Cornell nanotechnology researchers have devised a new tool to study epigenetic changes in DNA that can cause cancer and other diseases: a nanoscale fluidic device that sorts and collects DNA, one molecule at a time.

Epigenetics refers to chemical changes in DNA that do not alter the actual genetic code, but can influence the expression of genes and can be passed on when cells reproduce. One of the most important is DNA methylation, where methyl groups -- small structures of carbon and hydrogen -- are appended to DNA. Biologists study this by chemically precipitating out the methylated molecules, but these methods require large samples and often damage or throw away molecules they are supposed to find. Nanofluidics offers a way to select individual molecules out of tiny samples and collect them for further study.
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