Tabletop DNA test laboratory

British scientists have developed a tabletop DNA test laboratory that can cut the diagnosis of disease and infection from hours to 30 minutes. This new test laboratory will soon begin trials in UK hospitals.

Scientists at the Defense Science and Technology Laboratory (DSTL) developed the DNA test lab as a fast, accurate, battlefield detection system for biological warfare agents such as anthrax. The portable mini-lab, which uses the PCR (Polymerase Chain Reaction) process to amplify DNA, is a spin-off of this research.

The PCR process was developed by U.S. biochemist Dr. Kary Mullis. In 1993 Dr. Mullis was awarded the 1993 Nobel Prize for the PCR process.

The first trials, at hospitals in Portsmouth and Liverpool, will use urine samples to diagnose infections, notably chlamydia, within 40 minutes.

At present chlamydia testing requires samples to be sent away for analysis and can take up to two weeks to get the results back to the patient. The DSTL system which is at the pre-production phase, is designed to run in the clinic giving a 'while you wait' service to patients. Trials of the system called NPTGold, will take place in genito-urinary clinics in the UK and are due to start by the end of the year.

The portable mini-lab will also be able to help farmers detect animal diseases, including foot and mouth or tuberculosis in cattle, in the field rather than taking samples back to a laboratory.

Other applications include detecting genetic modifications (GM) in food at the food processing plant or where its sold as well as spotting contamination such as Salmonella, Listeria and E.coli. This new testing will also allow police officers and forensic scientists to analyze DNA samples at the scene of a crime.

DSTL Head of Technology Transfer and Investments Group Tim Rubidge said, "this technology is not a twinkle in the eye of a research scientist looking far out into the future. We have a po

Contact: Makeda Scott
British Information Services

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