China / Innovation

DNA technique heralds future advances in disease detection

By Zhou Wenting (China Daily) Updated: 2016-07-25 08:09

Scientists in Shanghai have come up with a way to obtain accurate test results from microscopic DNA samples, paving the way for breakthroughs in the detection of cancer and venereal disease.

Their technique, called LcnPCR, developed during more than 10 years of research at the Institute of Biochemistry and Cell Biology, a branch of the Shanghai Institutes for Biological Sciences at the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

It has been included in Methods in Molecular Biology, a textbook "for everybody in the molecular biology field around the world", said Wang Xuecai, deputy director of the institute.

The new procedure improves upon a previous method known as polymerase chain reaction, which is the current standard used in almost every hospital and life-science laboratory worldwide.

Groundbreaking for its time, PCR was the first technique that made it possible to get an accurate test result or diagnosis from a very small DNA sample.

Its inventor, US biochemist Kary Mullis, jointly won the Nobel Prize in chemistry for it in 1993.

However, PCR has drawbacks-the technique is prone to error, and any mistakes that do appear are then copied across each iteration of the DNA sequence.

LcnPCR, on the other hand, assures a higher degree of accuracy and sensitivity, which will benefit everyone from forensic investigators to inspection and quarantine teams at airport customs, according to Hong Guofan, the lead researcher.

Researchers used the new technique to detect HPV, a virus that can cause cervical cancer but is notoriously difficult to accurately diagnose, and found that LcnPCR improved the detection rate.

"The wrong diagnosis may lead to excessive medical treatment and a heavy emotional impact on some patients, while it would lead to delayed treatment for others," said Zhou Tianjun, another researcher on the team.

The institute has now signed a licensing agreement worth 10 million yuan ($1.5 million) with Shenzhen-based biotech consulting firm Zhongrui International for the exclusive use of the technique.

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