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Testing DNA in a Flash
OSU researcher earns patent on revolutionary device
By Leilana McKindra
It's called an elution-independent collection device.
That is a long name for a small device with huge potential for application across a broad range of industries such as agriculture, medicine and law enforcement.
Designed to quickly, easily capture and store samples of any kind of fluid from blood to tree sap, the EICD is in line to replace the more complicated and time consuming to operate DNA and RNA extraction kits currently in use.
The innovative EICD is the brainchild of Francisco Ochoa-Corona, a biosecurity and microbial forensics expert with the Oklahoma State University Department of Entomology and Plant Pathology and the National Institute for Microbial Forensics and Food and Agricultural Biosecurity.
“In microbial forensics there was, at that moment, and still is, a need for a device that allows sampling of microbes from fluids and keeping them safe for a period of time and allowing us to do further testing from that device,” he says. “Because when you are collecting a sample for forensics purposes, the samples have to last at least while the trial or investigation is going on.”
EICDs use contact and lateral flow to capture fluid samples. Then tiny pieces of a soluble element built into the device are cut out to dissolve directly into polymerase chain reaction mixtures, circumventing the intermediate step of elution, or extracting the targeted substance being analyzed. Skipping elution streamlines the PCR molecular DNA testing.
Further, EICD samples can be captured in 5 minutes or less compared with the 10 minutes to half hour necessary for commercially available DNA and RNA kits now on the market.
There is a limit of one sample per EICD and each sample can be stored for up to 12 months.
“In the case of EICDs, you do everything at room temperature,” Ochoa-Corona says. “You store our device at room temperature as well. The whole process may take 5 minutes. It’s cost-effective as well in terms of the cost of device and the time of the operator.”
Ochoa-Corona and OSU earned a patent for the EICD in 2016 and the device is on the cusp of being made commercially available after the agricultural uses of this patent were licensed to Switzerland-based Bioreba, which specializes in diagnostic testing supplies.
The majority of Oklahomans most likely will not have direct contact with EICDs. However, there is a decent chance they will experience the device’s impact just the same given it can be used effectively in a variety of settings such as collecting saliva for a culture in a hospital or gathering samples of blood at a crime scene.
“Any human fluid can be collected and tested that way and used for diagnosis of diseases. This is one application I can envision in the future,” Ochoa-Corona says. “The other thing is the forensics, which is what we envisioned in the very beginning. Every time there is an investigation, you benefit from [EICDs] because there is a system working to clarify justice. This is a tool for them.”
There is another crucial application, as well, and it relates to our food supply.
“In agriculture, we all benefit from food and this is a device that is going to contribute to the diagnosis of diseases of crops so growers can collect a sample, ship it away to a plant diagnostic clinic and have feedback about, ‘Oh, yeah, you have such-and-such’ and you can spray X.”
Years in the making, the EICD represents Ochoa-Corona’s first patent.
“I learned a lot about how the university processes things, how the lawyers address and tackle presenting a new idea and the mistakes you make assuming people understand what you’re saying and then need to go back and clarify,” he says.
“At the very end, there is a satisfaction to see things progressing and you get a lot of experience and you use this as an example for class. So, it’s quite good.”
Even though the device has not yet made it to the commercial market, the researcher is already exploring ways to make his invention even more effective.
“Once you have the device, what is coming next is how you can improve it. Immediately after, we are now working on how to improve it,” he says. “The other thing that comes after is how can we beat this. We created this and now we need to beat it. How can we crack this and come up with something new?”
Ochoa-Corona is continuing his studies as a researcher with NIMFFAB, the only institute in the nation dedicated to microbial forensics in agriculture. Microbial forensics seeks answers to questions such as how a disease infected a crop, how an animal disease got into a state or how a food-borne pathogen ended up in a food product that was then distributed. NIMFFAB is housed under OSU’s Division of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources.
More stories like this are available for members of the OSU Alumni Association. STATE magazine is a benefit of membership in the OSU Alumni Association. To join or update your membership go to orangeconnection.org/join
Published by STATE Magazine Editor Elizabeth Keys, Winter 2016, Volume 12, Number 2
Uploaded on December 1, 2016
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