Glasgow & West Scotland

Glasgow University microchip 'speeds up DNA analysis'

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Media captionScottish scientists are leading the way in developing new kinds of DNA analysis

Scottish scientists are leading the way in developing new kinds of DNA analysis which could revolutionise health care.

Genetic tests are increasingly used to help doctors target medicines more accurately, but analysing them remains a long and expensive process.

However, a new kind of DNA machine that uses a microchip developed in the west of Scotland can analyse DNA in just hours.

Professor David Cumming, from Glasgow University's department of electronics, was involved in early research to develop the microchip.

It is currently being used by the biotechnology company Life Technologies in a new machine which can take as little as two hours to sequence DNA.

Prof Cumming said: "One of the objectives is to make DNA sequencing much cheaper than it is today.

"If it becomes cheaper its use will become more widespread and you should be able to see it more commonly - perhaps even in general practice."

Image caption Professor Cumming's research could make DNA sequencing cheaper and quicker

Professor Cumming said speeding up DNA analysis could help treat bacterial infections in future.

It was used to identify the rare strain of E. coli that infected more than 3,000 people in Germany - the first time "genomics" have been used to identify the characteristics of a bug during an outbreak.

"If someone presents themselves with a particular kind of bacterial infection, you can find the DNA sequence of the bacteria and then you could choose an antibiotic which was particularly targeted to that kind of bacteria, rather than just giving a broad spectrum antibiotic, " he said.

It heralds a future where faster, cheaper DNA sequencers could be common in surgeries and clinics.

Image caption Cheaper DNA sequencers could become common in surgeries and clinics

Lee Murphy is laboratory manager of Edinburgh University's clinical research facility.

DNA analysis in his lab still takes about two weeks, but he can see a future where that time will be cut dramatically and DNA tests will be far more common.

"In future a DNA test will be a much more powerful test and will give you a lot more information than it does currently," he said.

"I think the power of these genetic tests are going to be in determining which drugs you'll be treated with and at what dosage, determined by your genetics and how well you metabolise drugs."

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