Till date, diseases like Ebola and Zika could only be detected through tests done in sophisticated labs and hospitals. DNA analysis is usually done with the help of Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) procedure which leads to creation of identical copies of DNA that are then tested. The DNA “photocopying” process began in 1983 when Kary Mullis, a Nobel Prize winner invented it so that diseases could be diagnosed even before first symptoms bothered the patients. It was a game changing process, in terms of molecular biology as well as healthcare, but happens to be an extremely volatile one. It needs to be done in a very precise and highly calibrated lab conditions as the PCR process itself bears high sensitivity to PCR machine.
A team of biomedical engineers that was working at the Vanderbilt University just improvised this process by bringing down the size of large PCR machine to a hand-held device. It means an analysis of this kind can be done in several other environments that are located much away from sophisticated labs and hospitals. The process in itself is a complex and sensitive one. The main key lies in the temperature and chemical composition. Small variations in the chemistry of sample as well as the room can bring massive effects over the results. This is why comprehensive lab results are needed and need to be maintained for a process to be successful.
The improvised version of this process is called as the “adaptive PCR” that makes use of synthetic and commercially available left-handed DNA that can monitor and control the reactions taking place in PCR process. L-DNA does not replicate but is, on the other hand, identical to R-DNA and is, therefore, a controlled variable in this procedure. When a fluorescently tagged L-DNA is added to the PCR sample, it offer valuable information about PCR reactions and also showcases an ability to control them. This shows that the lab conditions needed for this process are determined by L-DNA and now lab technicians. The same concept was used for development of this technique.
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