Thanks to our never-ending obsession with miniaturizing technology and competitions like the Tricorder X-prize, it looks like everyone’s favorite piece of Star Trek medical paraphernalia, the Tricorder, may be just around the corner. A team from the University of Queensland has developed a new micro-device that creates a simple, rapid, and inexpensive strategy for detecting DNA methylation at single CpG dinucleotide resolution.
The technology they created, Methylation Sensitive electrochemical Ligase Chain Reaction (MS-eLCR), may soon improve routine patient diagnostics on the cheap. Starting out with minute amounts of bisulfite converted DNA, the team was able to create an electrochemical assay for detecting locus-specific DNA methylation.
Here’s how the mission went down (we assume it only cost the lives of a few grad students aka “Red Shirts”):
- Ligase chain reaction (LCR) was employed to recognize and amplify C<T changes, the device can then record the conversion electrochemically (eLCR).
- Unlike other competing techniques, their electrochemical detection method has the potential to interrogate any CpG of interest and thus they scientists coined it Methylation Specific (MS-eLCR)
- The new tech was tested out on some breast cancer lines, and the team found that MS-eLCR requires as little as 0.04pM of starting material and was sensitive to 10-15% methylation change with good reproducibility.
On top of everything else, the accuracy of MS-eLCR was much like that of current fluorescence based and next generation seq based approaches. This leaves the futuristic crew optimistic about the potential for MS-eLCR as a “low cost alternative to current technologies for DNA methylation detection of specific CpG sites.”