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Genomics: Mobile Phones bring DNA sequencing to the field

Nature Communications

January 18, 2017

A portable mobile phone-based device for the detection of cancer-related mutations in DNA is demonstrated in a study published in Nature Communications this week. The device enables diagnosis at the site of sampling, which could cut costs and time, and can detect unique DNA sequences, including cancer-specific mutations.

Molecular diagnostic tests are often conducted at centralised laboratories, which can cause a delay in obtaining the results, particularly if the patient is in a remote or inaccessible location. Mats Nilsson, Aydogan Ozcan and colleagues design a 3D-printed attachment for mobile phones that allows in-field diagnosis. The device is shown to detect cancer-specific DNA sequences using probes labelled with a fluorescent compound; a match generates a fluorescent signal that the phone’s camera can detect.

Although the device presented does not allow for detection of new mutations, it offers a cost-effective approach to molecular diagnosis that might be applicable to resource-limited or geographically isolated settings. This technology has potential applications outside of cancer diagnosis, such as pathogen detection. By reducing time and cost, mobile phone-based diagnostic devices can bring detailed molecular information to direct to the researcher in the field.

doi: 10.1038/ncomms13913

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