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Paper-based test performs DNA analysis at low cost


Toronto, ON – Scientists have developed a new paper device that analyzes DNA and could rapidly and inexpensively assess disparate conditions including hepatitis B and male infertility, which together affect millions of people around the world. The test, reported in the Journal of the American Chemical Society, could be of particular help diagnosing people in low-income areas.

 

DNA analysis has become a valuable tool in forensic science, genetics and disease diagnosis. But carrying out such analyses requires expensive lab equipment, making its application out of reach for many people who live in resource-limited places. Advances in nanomaterials, however, could make analysis of genetic material possible at a much lower cost. The University of Toronto’s David Sinton and colleagues in the Department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering wanted to see if they could come up with a new paper device with such nanomaterials to test DNA without the use of high-tech facilities.

 

The researchers made a paper-based diagnostic test out of materials that cost less than $1 per device. After only a 10-minute run, the device could detect the hepatitis B virus in blood serum at a level low enough to flag an early-stage acute infection, which is critical to help prevent its spread. It also could determine the DNA integrity of sperm — a predictor of fertility — from semen samples as accurately as current clinical methods.

 

The authors acknowledge funding from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, the Canada Foundation for Innovation and the Ontario Research Fund.