Scientists find new way to extract diluted and contaminated DNA

August 10, 2009

( -- University of British Columbia researchers have developed a new way to extract DNA and RNA from small or heavily contaminated samples that could help forensic investigators and molecular biologists get to “the truth.”

“By exploiting the physical traits of - electric charge, length and flexibility - we’ve been able to extract DNA from samples that would otherwise not produce enough clean DNA for analysis,” says UBC Biophysics Prof. Andre Marziali.

The technique is being commercialized through Boreal Genomics, a UBC spin-off company, and is expected to have broad applications from basic life-science research to forensic sample analysis, bio-defence and pathogen detection for food safety and clinical diagnostics.

The research team, which includes scientists from UBC and BC Cancer Agency’s Genome Science Centre, details the technique in this week’s Proceedings of the National Academy of Science.

Extracting DNA by conventional methods - which rely on the molecules’ chemical properties - has proven challenging when there are only trace amounts of DNA or when the source sample has contaminants with similar chemical traits.

“We’ve found that DNA and respond to electric fields in a way that is very different from other molecules,” says Marziali. “By exploiting this unique property, we were able to extract high quality DNA from a highly contaminated sample from the Athabasca oil sands.”

The team also successfully tested the technique on samples provided by the RCMP.

Provided by University of British Columbia

Explore further: DNA constraints control structure of attached macromolecules

Related Stories

DNA constraints control structure of attached macromolecules

June 28, 2005

A new method for manipulating macromolecules has been developed by researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. The technique uses double-stranded DNA to direct the behavior of other molecules. In previous ...

Study: DNA may predict criminals' surnames

February 22, 2006

British researchers say forensic scientists might soon be using DNA from crime scenes to predict the surname of the criminal responsible for the crime.

Handheld DNA detector

March 10, 2008

A researcher at the National University at San Diego has taken a mathematical approach to a biological problem - how to design a portable DNA detector. Writing in the International Journal of Nanotechnology, he describes ...

Researchers uncover process involved in DNA repair

June 29, 2009

( -- Every day people are exposed to chemical and physical agents that damage DNA. If it isn't repaired properly, this damage can lead to mutations that in some circumstances can lead to the development of cancer ...

Recommended for you

Sixth sense: How do we sense electric fields?

October 13, 2015

A variety of animals are able to sense and react to electric fields, and living human cells will move along an electric field, for example in wound healing. Now a team lead by Min Zhao at the UC Davis Institute for Regenerative ...

A better way to read the genome

October 9, 2015

UConn researchers have sequenced the RNA of the most complicated gene known in nature, using a hand-held sequencer no bigger than a cell phone.


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.