In the last decade the use of field-effect-based devices has become a basic structural element in a new generation of biosensors that allow label-free DNA analysis. In particular, ion sensitive field effect transistors (FET) are the basis for the development of radical new approaches for the specific detection and characterization of DNA due to FETs’ greater signal-to-noise ratio, fast measurement capabilities, and possibility to be included in portable instrumentation. Reliable molecular characterization of DNA and/or RNA is vital for disease diagnostics and to follow up alterations in gene expression profiles. FET biosensors may become a relevant tool for molecular diagnostics and at point-of-care. The development of these devices and strategies should be carefully designed, as biomolecular recognition and detection events must occur within the Debye length. This limitation is sometimes considered to be fundamental for FET devices and considerable efforts have been made to develop better architectures. Herein we review the use of field effect sensors for nucleic acid detection strategies—from production and functionalization to integration in molecular diagnostics platforms, with special focus on those that have made their way into the diagnostics lab.
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