DNA Printer – A Misnomer?

To anyone deeply involved in the matter of DNA synthesis, likening this complex process to ‘printing’ will probably seem a fairly sloppy choice of word. But to explain the rough workings of a DNA synthesizer in simple terms, this metaphor is very fitting.

Why outsource when you can do it yourself?

Copy shop? No way! I print at home!

First of all, everybody can relate to just how convenient having one’s own office printer is. Quick, and easily accessible, it allows for the printing of documents at top speed, at home, at any time. Hardly anyone frequents a copy store for small everyday print jobs anymore. Only the printing of large quantities of flyers, cards or books is still outsourced.  Similar conveniences can be extremely beneficial in molecular science.

The term ‘DNA printer’ not only plays on such advantages of office printers as swiftness, ease of use and ready availability, but suggests even further analogies.

The ink

DNA printing uses 4 ‘colors’ – just like a traditional toner or laser printer. But the ‘colors’ used in DNA printing are not simply inorganic substances that produce an optical sensory impression. For the DNA printer, organic nucleoid bases are needed, like those found in every living cell. They are called adenine, guanine, cytosine and thymine.

The base material

Whether colorful, chlorine-free bleached, thick or thin, the substrate of an office printer is paper.
Likewise, in chemical DNA synthesis, a solid phase is used to print DNA on. This column of special material is integrated in a microfluidic chip in the Kilobaser DNA Synthesizer.

The printing process

The printing process in a DNA printer differs from an ink printer mainly in that the 4 different ‚inks‘ are not printed in separate runs. Instead, the DNA is printed base by base, whereby the respective ‚ink‘ is selected and passed to the solid phase, where it is bound to the previous base. Afterwards, all unbound molecules are washed away and the next base is on its way.

The application

Imagine a birthday invitation written on your computer that you want to send to your guests by regular mail. Your text file is ready for printing, you turn on the printer, put in fresh paper and in the best case, the ink is already inserted. All you have to do then is send the file to your printer and wait for it to finish.

The Kilobaser DNA printer is just as easy to use: You have already designed your desired DNA sequence; you enter it into the Kilobaser interface on your PC or directly on the touch screen of the device. Now, you insert a fresh microfluidic chip and a collection tube. You have already inserted the cartridge with the reagents. You then press ‘Start’ and wait just about 2 hours until your DNA is printed, dried, and ready for further use.

Detailed information about the technology of Kilobaser synthesizers can be found here.

You want to learn more about Kilobaser?

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Kilobaser personal DNA and RNA synthesizer in benchtop size. Print your DNA oligos, RNA oligos and DNA probes on demand.

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