A DNA microarray (also commonly known as gene chip or biochip) is a collection of microscopic DNA spots attached to a solid surface. Scientists use DNA microarrays to measure the expression levels of large numbers of genes simultaneously or to genotype multiple regions of a genome. Each DNA spot contains picomoles (10'12 moles) of a specific DNA sequence, known as probes (or reporters). These can be a short section of a gene or other DNA element that are used to hybridize a cDNA or cRNA sample (called target) under high-stringency conditions. Probe-target hybridization is usually detected and quantified by detection of fluorophore-, silver-, or chemiluminescence-labeled targets to determine relative abundance of nucleic acid sequences in the target.

Since an array can contain tens of thousands of probes, a microarray experiment can accomplish many genetic tests in parallel. Therefore arrays have dramatically accelerated many types of investigation. In standard microarrays, the probes are synthesized and then attached via surface engineering to a solid surface by a covalent bond to a chemical matrix (via epoxy-silane, amino-silane, lysine, polyacrylamide or others). The solid surface can be glass or a silicon chip, in which case they are colloquially known as an Affy chip when an Affymetrix chip is used. Other microarray platforms, such as Illumina, use microscopic beads, instead of the large solid support. Alternatively, microarrays can be constructed by the direct synthesis of oligonucleotide probes on solid surfaces. DNA arrays are different from other types of microarray only in that they either measure DNA or use DNA as part of its detection system.

DNA microarrays can be used to measure changes in expression levels, to detect single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs), or to genotype or resequence mutant genomes. Microarrays also differ in fabrication, workings, accuracy, efficiency, and cost. Additional factors for microarray experiments are the experimental design and the methods of analyzing the data.

The principle of microarray
The core principle behind microarrays is hybridization between two DNA strands, the property of complementary nucleic acid sequences to specifically pair with each other by forming hydrogen bonds between complementary nucleotide base pairs. A high number of complementary base pairs in a nucleotide sequence means tighter non-covalent bonding between the two strands. After washing off of non-specific bonding sequences, only strongly paired strands will remain hybridized. So fluorescently labeled target sequences that bind to a probe sequence generate a signal that depends on the strength of the hybridization determined by the number of paired bases, the hybridization conditions (such as temperature), and washing after hybridization. Total strength of the signal, from a spot (feature), depends upon the amount of target sample binding to the probes present on that spot. Microarrays use relative quantization in which the intensity of a feature is compared to the intensity of the same feature under a different condition, and the identity of the feature is known by its position.

Applications of Microarrays
Gene discovery: DNA Microarray technology helps in the identification of new genes, know about their functioning and expression levels under different conditions.

Disease diagnosis: DNA Microarray technology helps researchers learn more about different diseases such as heart diseases, mental illness, infectious disease and especially the study of cancer. Until recently, different types of cancer have been classified on the basis of the organs in which the tumors develop. Now, with the evolution of microarray technology, it will be possible for the researchers to further classify the types of cancer on the basis of the patterns of gene activity in the tumor cells. This will tremendously help the pharmaceutical community to develop more effective drugs as the treatment strategies will be targeted directly to the specific type of cancer.

Drug discovery: Microarray technology has extensive application in Pharmacogenomics. Pharmacogenomics is the study of correlations between therapeutic responses to drugs and the genetic profiles of the patients. Comparative analysis of the genes from a diseased and a normal cell will help the identification of the biochemical constitution of the proteins synthesized by the diseased genes. The researchers can use this information to synthesize drugs which combat with these proteins and reduce their effect.

Toxicological research: Microarray technology provides a robust platform for the research of the impact of toxins on the cells and their passing on to the progeny. Toxicogenomics establishes correlation between responses to toxicants and the changes in the genetic profiles of the cells exposed to such toxicants.

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