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Professors to develop hand-held pathogen testing device

Testing for deadly food, air and water pathogens may get a lot easier and cheaper thanks to the work of a Michigan State University researcher and his team.

Syed Hashsham, an associate professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering and the Center for Microbial Ecology, is developing a portable, hand-held device capable of detecting up to 50 microbial threat agents in air, water and food.

"This device will give us the ability to measure pathogens in a manner and at a price that really matters for human health," Hashsham said. "If we can screen for all pathogens together, we can minimize the threat significantly."

Hashsham intends for the portable, hand-held device to be an all-in-one pathogen testing center where DNA amplification and pathogen identification will happen on the same DNA biochip. A DNA biochip has signature pieces of DNA attached to a silica surface, similar to a computer chip, and is about the size of a thumbnail.

Today, testing air, water or food for pathogens like cholera and dysentery must be done one pathogen at a time. Testing for each pathogen on an individual basis is dangerous, more expensive and time consuming. Simultaneous testing simplifies the process, making it safer and more cost effective.

Earlier this year, Hashsham was awarded $966,608 from the 21st Century Jobs Fund to develop and commercialize the device.

Hashsham, James Tiedje, University Distinguished Professor of crop and soil sciences and director of the Center for Microbial Ecology, and Erdogan Gulari, professor at the University of Michigan's Department of Chemical Engineering, formed a cross-disciplinary team to develop this technology.

The procedure begins with sample processing that extracts DNA from all microorganisms present in the sample. The DNA can then be introduced into the device where it will undergo polymerase chain reaction for the selected harmful pathogens. Polymerase chai
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Source:Michigan State University


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