An inexpensive device used by millions of people with diabetes could be adapted into a home DNA detector that enables individuals to perform home tests for viruses and bacteria in human body fluids, in food and in other substances, scientists are reporting in a new study. The report on this adaptation of the ubiquitous personal glucose monitor, typically used to test blood sugar levels, appears in ACS' journal Analytical Chemistry.
Yi Lu and Yu Xiang point out that developing low-cost tests for the public to use for early diagnosis of diseases, checking the safety of food and other testing that now take days and sophisticated laboratory instruments is one of the greatest challenges in chemistry. Such tests could improve health and reduce costs, especially for people in developing countries or rural areas in developed countries with scant medical resources. Lu and Xiang have been responding to this challenge with adaptations to the home glucose monitor, an essential device for millions of people with diabetes that's inexpensive and simple to use.
In their latest research, the scientists describe how they adapted a glucose meter to monitor DNA. Their test takes place in a liquid containing sucrose (a sugar that isn't detected by glucose meters). First, a bacterial or viral DNA fragment is captured and concentrated on beads. Then, the researchers add an enzyme that is stuck to a different DNA (which can bind to the bacterial or viral DNA). The enzyme, called invertase, turns the sucrose into glucose, which the glucose meter can measure. They detected a hepatitis B virus DNA fragment at concentrations comparable to or in some cases even better than many current DNA measurement systems, which are much more expensive and time-consuming.
The authors acknowledge funding from the U.S. Department of Energy, the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation.
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