Continuing their coverage of Lab-on-a-chip tech, MIT’s Technology Review examines the GenoTyper, which could easily, quickly report whether your coughing is due to influenza, and whether it’s a new strain:
“The advantages are that [the Genotyper] is very portable,” says Ronald G. Larson, chair of the chemical engineering department at Michigan. “It seemed ideal for doing on-the-spot genomics on viruses — and influenza was a logical candidate.”
…Since influenza is an RNA virus, the RNA must be first converted to DNA before it can be amplified on the chip. In the process, called PCR (polymerase chain reaction), enzymes are released that digest, or cut, the DNA at certain points.
“The way the gene is cut or not cut depends on which flu gene you have,” says Larson. The DNA fragments are then run through a gel and stained with fluorescent tags, allowing scientists to distinguish one flu strain from another, or to tell if a new strain has emerged.
The device is still a ways off from making it into medicine cabinets — or airplanes. They’ve got to fit a DNA purifier on board. But the developers think portable chemistry sensing will one day be as ubiquitous as portable computing — and point to home pregnacy tests, and glucose monitors, as the forerunners of their technology.
More from Dr. Mark Burn’s Lab Page at U of M…