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A dipstick that could transform disease diagnosis

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IMAGE: Scientists have developed a cellulose dipstick that can purify DNA and RNA from a wide range of plant, animal and microbe samples within less than 30 seconds. view more 

Credit: Michael Mason

Scientists have developed a revolutionary dipstick technology that allows DNA and RNA to be extracted from living organisms in as little as 30 seconds. The extracted DNA or RNA can then be used for a range of applications including disease diagnosis, the scientists report in a paper publishing 21 November in the open access journal PLOS Biology.

The dipstick technology, developed by a University of Queensland team led by Professor Jimmy Botella and Dr Michael Mason, can be used virtually anywhere without the need for specialised equipment or personnel.

Nucleic acids can be isolated using current commercial kits, Professor Botella said, but the process is cumbersome and requires specialised laboratory equipment that isn't practical to use in the field.

The authors initially developed the technology for plants and found that it could successfully purify DNA from a large number of agriculturally important species. However, they soon found that their discovery had much broader implications as it could be used to purify either DNA or RNA from human blood, viruses, fungi and bacterial pathogens from infected plants or animals.

"Our technology eliminates the need for a specialised laboratory for sample preparation, and is a lot simpler, faster and cheaper than anything else available" said Professor Botella. "This technology will benefit people in both developed and developing nations to tackle a range of agricultural, health and environmental problems."

"The dipstick technology makes diagnostics accessible to everyone. By combining our dipsticks with other newly developed technologies that we and others have developed, the entire diagnostic process, that is, from sample collection to final result, can be easily performed in a hospital, farm or even the middle of a jungle", he said.

"We have already successfully used the dipsticks in remote plantations in Papua New Guinea to identify a pathogen that was killing trees, and are currently using them to rapidly detect human pathogens in food. The uses for this technology are almost limitless."

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In your coverage please use this URL to provide access to the freely available article in PLOS Biology: http://journals.plos.org/plosbiology/article?id=10.1371/journal.pbio.2003916

Citation: Zou Y, Mason MG, Wang Y, Wee E, Turni C, Blackall PJ, et al. (2017) Nucleic acid purification from plants, animals and microbes in under 30 seconds. PLoS Biol 15(11): e2003916. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pbio.2003916

Funding: The author(s) received no specific funding for this work.

Competing Interests: The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.

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