Do-it-yourself kit for genetic testing!

A mobile phone-like device will soon rule out a patient`s need to visit a pathological lab for detection of genetic disorders.

New Delhi: A mobile phone-like device will soon rule out a patient`s need to visit a pathological lab for detection of genetic disorders and also do away with the prolonged wait for a forensic expert`s report to find clues about criminals.

Unlike the traditional method which requires high expertise as well as complicated equipment in an advanced laboratory, genetic analysis of a person can be done using a simple device which will be accessible and affordable to each household.

The new cellphone-like device will take less time to analyse the genetic structure from a person`s blood or swab sample and reduce the cost of the entire procedure from 10 to 20 times, said Rajni Kanth Vangala, who is leading a team of five researchers working on the project at the Institute of Bioinformatics and Applied Biotechnology (IBAB) in Bangalore.

"Any kind of genetic tests, including those required in forensic analysis for crime detection or diagnosing diseases such as cancer, HIV, Alzheimer`s and brain tumour, can be done in 15-20 minutes instead of over one to two hours," Vangala told IANS on phone.

Genetic analysis, also called DNA (Deoxyribonucleic Acid) test, is required to trace genetic disorder or find out possibilities of the onset of any hereditary disease in an individual, including an unborn baby.

The existing method of genetic testing or DNA fingerprinting involves a complex procedure carried out by professionals in well-equipped labs.

After identifying the gene in a pathological lab, it needs to be amplified with the help of a chemical method called polymerase chain reaction (PCR) so that the defect can be traced. The procedure takes hours and costs a patient Rs.1,000-Rs.5,000.

"But the new technique will not require an expensive method like PCR. It is an unimaginable concept and once the device is available, it will bring a revolution in genetic testing," said Sheo Mohan Singh, School of Biotechnology head at International Institute of Information Technology (IIIT), Pune, who organised a conference on stem cells and cancer earlier this month.

"Any type of DNA test will cost not more than Rs.150," Singh told IANS on phone from Pune.

The experts are in the process of developing the prototype of the device which is expected to be available for people in a couple of years.

"Soon we are going to apply for the patent of the instrument. We are also in talks with some companies who can manufacture the device for commercial use," Vangala said after revealing his innovation at the International Conference of Stem Cells and Cancer (ICSCC-2010) held at IIIT, Pune.

He explained the new method during his presentation on the identification of novel biomarkers for disease progression and for therapy in cancers.

The instrument, he said, will prove to be a breakthrough in quick detection of gene disorders so that preventive measures can be taken as early as in foetus stage.

The four-day conference was attended by more than 60 experts from various countries, including the US, Britain, Canada, Germany, Japan, Australia and Switzerland.

"I hope such a conference will provide a platform for academia and the healthcare industry to come together and will encourage more students to study stem cell, molecular biology and nanobiotechnology," Singh said.