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New DNA Testing Method Offers Faster and More Accurate Pathogen Identification

By LabMedica International staff writers
Posted on 05 Jun 2024

The Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) is widely regarded as the definitive method for target DNA sequence amplification, testing, and analysis. In this traditional PCR process, the DNA sample undergoes heating to separate into single strands, which then serve as templates for synthesizing new DNA strands through enzymatic action. Despite its effectiveness, this method can be cumbersome, slow, and costly. Now, researchers have introduced an alternative DNA testing method that could potentially replace traditional PCR, paving the way for broader applications in medical diagnostics.

Developed at Case Western Reserve University (Cleveland, OH, USA), this new technique or reaction is named AMPLON (Amplifying DNA with Multiarm Priming and Looping Optimization of Nucleic Acid). It enables comparison of DNA from diseased cells with that from healthy ones, enhancing understanding of disease progression and treatment approaches. AMPLON uses multiple extensions along the DNA strand, significantly enhancing the speed and accuracy of DNA synthesis at a constant temperature. This simplified method avoids the thermal stress typically imposed on materials by traditional PCR's fluctuating temperatures.

Image: The new method offers faster, more accurate pathogen identification, even in complex DNA sequences (Photo courtesy of 123RF)
Image: The new method offers faster, more accurate pathogen identification, even in complex DNA sequences (Photo courtesy of 123RF)

Furthermore, AMPLON offers a more organized and practical amplification method, particularly beneficial in environments where maintaining precise temperature control is difficult. The innovative design of its multi-armed DNA primers turns the limitations associated with enzymatic reactions into advantages, increasing the efficiency of the amplification process and ensuring consistent results. This new technique holds promise for transforming molecular analysis and clinical diagnostics across various fields, including infectious disease diagnostics, personalized medicine, and environmental monitoring. 

“We’ve developed a new method of DNA amplification that does not require bulky lab-bound equipment but can be conducted in one step and in diverse settings. More significantly, our approach does not weaken enzymes like the PCR method,” said Mohamed S. Draz, an assistant professor at Case Western Reserve's School of Medicine and the principal investigator of the study, which was recently published in the journal Advanced Materials. “We’ve been able to enhance amplification and reduce amplification time by 50%. Our approach has the potential to dramatically change the way nucleic acid amplification is performed, providing instead a portable, reliable and cost-effective solution for applications, ranging from point-of-care diagnostics to field-based research.” 

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