'Medical Tricorder' Sees Viral DNA Quickly

A "medical tricorder" developed by Vancouver-based scientists uses a special method to quickly separate human from viral DNA, providing physicians with fast diagnostic tests.


(Medical tricorder creator Andre Marziali )

Finding a virus's DNA from a throat-swab test is similar to "looking for a needle in a haystack," says Andre Marziali, a physics professor at the University of British Columbia, because the sample is crowded with human DNA. He and his team are hoping his medical "tricorder" invention a portable, battery-powered device that can pinpoint the specific DNA signature of the virus will help the medical community.

"Researchers often can't identify viruses that are infecting someone because of the amount of human DNA in the background. That is exactly the situation they're in now," Marziali said. "What this can do is it can pick out specific DNA sequences for analysis. This is huge. We have an incredible ability to reject background DNA."

SF fans who watched Star Trek in their teens have turned gray in their wait for Star Trek tricorders; but, if we're patient, we'll see them in our lifetime.


(Medical tricorder)

From the Vancouver Sun; thanks to Nicholas Johnson for the tip on this story.

Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 1/29/2011)

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