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DNA and RNA isolation for studies are used for long and tedious processes done in the laboratory. A new technology from the University of Queensland in Australia now allows extraction and isolation of DNA and RNA in less than 30 seconds. The technology works in the field without the need for any of the traditional cumbersome equipment.

DNA and RNA Isolation During Field Research

According to Professor Jimmy Botella and Dr. Michael Mason, the dipstick technology will benefit people in the study of agricultural, health, medical and environmental problems. It has already been used in plantations in Papua New Guinea in the diagnoses of trees. It has also been applied to diseases in livestock and in human samples, as well as in pathogens in food and E. Coli-contaminated waters.

Even though it was designed for use in plant samples, the research team found it could also successfully purify DNA from other plant samples, as well as from human blood, and pathogens from infected plants and animal samples. Compared to the older system, the dipstick technology for DNA and RNA isolation is portable, faster, simpler and cheaper. Anyone can use it with minimal training. Being portable, it also works in the field, a hotel room or any clinic.

a cartoon of an open field with eight cows grazing and a small image of a hand holding a dipstick amid the discussion of the Dipstick technology for quick DNA and RNA isolation

Simplicity of the Dipstick Technology

The dipstick itself is made of a cellulose-based paper and is roughly the size and shape of a cotton bud. It separates the RNA and DNA—hence, DNA and RNA isolation —from any sample tissue. This technology thus enables the separated RNA or DNA testing for common diseases or pathogens, including HIV, hepatitis as well as cancer cells.

In other words, the dipstick enables the separation of RNA and DNA and allows the study of samples for specific characteristics. Notably, human disease detection is one area where this technology is useful.

On DNA Purification

RNA and DNA purification requires RNA and DNA separation—or DNA and RNA isolation. DNA separation minimizes the possibility of cross-contamination from other DNA or non-DNA contaminants and also increases the stability of the sample during long-term storage. Traditionally, the first step in purification is to break open the cells to expose the DNA. A detergent removes the cell’s membrane lipids, followed by the use of alcohol to precipitate the DNA. The introduction of protease removes the protein while RNase removes the RNA.

On RNA Purification

RNA purification involves different steps from those for DNA. The cells are first disrupted, followed by the addition of a reducing agent. Then it is shaken vigorously. This step breaks the disulphide bonds and also represses any contaminant protein in the sample. The addition of phenol and chloroform-isoamyl alcohol separates RNA from the sample solution. This case yields an aqueous phase, which goes to a separate tube and isopropanol, followed by the addition of a centrifugate solution—thus, causing a precipitate to form. Notably, using 75 percent ethanol to wash the sample removes any impurities. Since RNA is less stable than DNA, it is separated only prior to immediate use. The laboratory staff follows quality assurance procedures ensuring purified RNA with no contamination, as the presence of RNase compromises quality.

The Bottom Line

Formerly, the above procedures were only done in a lab to ensure that contamination does not occur. Indeed, with its ability for quick DNA and RNA isolation, the dipstick technology ensures that the samples are properly separated even in the field.

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