New Rapid DNA Technology

08 May

The recent killing of Osama bin Laden and the very rapid determination of his identity through DNA and other techniques has generated a great deal of discussion on just how fast DNA analyses can be done. The facts are that with good samples a DNA profile and its matching against a known profile can be done in a few hours, perhaps as little as two or three. But there’s new technology on the horizon that might reduce this time to less than an hour and, just as important, allow this testing to be done in the field by non-specially-trained individuals.

Network Biosystems (NetBio) is the creator of this portable instant DNA scanner that utilizes microfluidics, a rapidly expanding technology that makes use of very small volumes of liquids and microcapillary tubes. Since it is portable, rapid, and doesn’t require a scientifically-trained operator, it will no doubt prove to be a valuable forensic tool.

Lab on a Chip (LOCAD)

I first learned about this technology a couple years ago when I spent time with Dr. Lisa Monaco at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, AL. She explained the microfluidic technology she employs in her Lab-on-a-chip (LOCAD) research and indeed one of her devices is currently roaming around Mars, seeking evidence of nitrogen, oxygen, water, and other chemicals, as well as the amino acids required for life.

Dr. Lisa Monaco

Whether on the surface of Mars or at a crime scene, this technology has a bright future and I suspect we will see an increasing number of uses for it.


5 responses to “New Rapid DNA Technology

  1. J.D.

    May 9, 2011 at 4:20 am

    Is it accurate? Does it require a field operator with special skills? I can see a scenario in which a field operator might destroy valuable evidence. I’m sure all of that will be worked out. This is very interesting.


    • D.P. Lyle, MD

      May 9, 2011 at 7:27 am

      It seems to be very accurate. All the operator needs to do is collect the sample and place a small amount in the entry port. The device does the rest.


  2. GYSC

    May 9, 2011 at 5:02 pm

    The new age tech is great but I would think it would take years for it to find it’s way to most state departments. No doubt critical areas will put it to use. The new PCR enzymes like KOD and Phusion cut amplification time down bu 2/3 as is . Yes, I am a molecular biologist.


  3. Jim

    June 3, 2011 at 5:43 am

    How and when do you think the first logged DNA profile for bin Laden was acquired. Also. speaking forensically, why have the US refused to release any details of the evidentiary process? If you’re interested in forensics, you have to wonder!

    Take a look at the forensic jobs all over the world on Forensic Recruit


    • D.P. Lyle, MD

      June 3, 2011 at 2:44 pm

      I assume they got the DNA from the corpse and then they used the PCR/STR technique to analyze it–this can be done in a couple of hours. There are a couple of new portable devices that can do this entire process very quickly. The military would have access to these if anyone would.



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