Discs of souped-up filter paper could change how we diagnose infections. To demonstrate the power of the approach, which involves embedding DNA from jellyfish and other organisms into paper, its developers have successfully used it to identify two strains of Ebola.
Although far from being ready for testing in west Africa, paper discs that detect the virus are being developed for potential use as a cheap, simple method to identify infected people.
The key to the technology is the ability to print sequences of DNA on paper, then freeze-dry and store the discs at room temperature. The DNA is reactivated by adding water. Once active, it enables the paper to change colour if a chosen target – such as a segment of Ebola viral RNA – is present in the water.
The target fragment binds to a gene switch in the DNA, which triggers the production of a colourful substance such as the protein that gives jellyfish a green glow under ultraviolet light, or proteins from bacteria that produce colour changes visible to the naked eye. The colour the paper changes to indicates which of the target pathogens has been detected.
H/T: The Wife