A collaborative effort between researchers from the University of Toronto (Canada) and McGill University (Canada), has led to the development of a paper device that can rapidly analyze DNA to assess medical conditions including hepatitis B and male infertility.
It is hoped that these findings, recently published online in the Journal of the American Chemical Society, will be beneficial in diagnosing people in low-income areas.
DNA analysis is an important tool in many areas of medical science, including disease diagnosis. However the cost associated with these techniques mean that its application in resource-limited areas is not feasible. However, lead author David Sinton of the University of Toronto, wanted to explore whether advances in nanomaterials could make the analysis of genetic material possible at a much lower cost. This led to the development of the new paper device, utilizing nanomaterial technology, to enable DNA analysis without the use of high-tech facilities.
The current device has been developed at a cost of less than US$1 per unit. Its efficacy has been demonstrated in tests that show that it can detect hepatitis B virus in blood serum at a level low enough to indicate early stage acute infection, critical in preventing the virus spreading. The device has also been shown to be as effective as current clinical methods in determining the DNA integrity of sperm, which is a crucial predictor of fertility.
Sources: Paper-based test could diagnose hepatitis B and assess male fertility at low cost; Gong MM, Nosrati R, San Gabriel MC, Zini A, Sinton D. Direct DNA analysis with paper-based ion concentration polarization. J. Am. Chem. Soc. Epub ahead of print (Doi: 10.1021/jacs.5b08523) (2015).