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DNA-Monitoring Method Wins Pollution Prevention Award

Using fluorescently labeled synthetic DNA fragments tomonitor DNA repair replaces a technique in which radioactive isotopes are used as tags. While efficient, radioactive isotopes are more expensive thanfluorescent tags. Also, usingradioactive tracers requires frequent preparation of freshly labeled DNA, and disposal of the experimental samples as hazardous waste — which further increases the cost of the research.

Fluorescently labeled molecules, on the other hand, can be stored frozen for long periods. So the new method minimizes waste generation and improves worker safety by avoiding the handling of radioactive material.

The technique, which earned biologists Betsy Sutherland and Brigitte Paap a “Best in Class” pollution prevention award from the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Science, may now be used throughout the DOE labs and in universities and industry.

“It’s very rewarding to come up with a new technique that helps us understand the process of radiation damage repair while at the same time reducing the waste associated with traditional techniques,” Sutherland said.