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New Tools To Identify Flu Strains

Researchers have developed a portable la-chip called Genotyper that can identify the genetic //structure of the flu virus within hours and help the doctors to treat patients effectively.

Developed by researchers from University of Michigan, the Genotyper is on its way to become fully portable and be connected wirelessly and can be taken all around the world to track the various flu strains across the globe.

The process for identifying the flu type is similar to genetic fingerprinting used in DNA identification. First, the influenza RNA is converted to DNA, using the same biological processes that the HIV virus uses to convert RNA to DNA to replicate itself and elude the immune system. Then, a segment of the DNA is reproduced in a process called PCR, or "polymerase chain reaction," and enzymes are released that "digest," or cut that DNA at certain points.

"The way the gene is cut or not cut depends on which flu gene you have," Larson said. "Once the genes are cut, you can separate them based on size in a gel." The pattern of fragment sizes tells you the locations of the cuts in the DNA, and this provides a "fingerprint" that distinguishes the type of flu.

During that process, the DNA fragments are run though a gel, which, when it is electrically charged, causes the DNA fragments to move at certain speeds depending on size. The short fragments squirt through quickly, the longer ones more slowly, Larson said. The fragments are stained with fluorescent tags, which allow scientists to distinguish one flu strain from the next, or tell if a new strain has emerged.

Different types of DNA strands can be tested and identified using the same device by simply using different reagents. To demonstrate the Genotyper's versatility, researchers did tests on DNA from a human, a mouse, and from a strain of influenza. The entire device would be about as big as a television remote control, Larson said.

Source: Newswise
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