LavaAmp: copy NDA sequence anytime, anywhere

LavaAmp's prototype is made of sheet metal with a small cylindrical protrusion at one end and two thin wires around it. You can use the 5th battery to power it, or connect it directly to the USB port on the laptop. LavaAmp is divided into 3 parts internally. The basic function of this small box does not sound very dazzling: it can heat, cool, and then heat; the liquid can flow in and out, and it looks unchanged. Children may mistake it for a toy at first. But they poked and shook this thing, and they might get bored after a while, and then dropped it to play aside.

LavaAmp, a chain reaction device that is small enough to be attached to a trouser belt and can replicate DNA sequences anytime, anywhere. Image source: staticflickr.com

In short, LavaAmp looks unremarkable. However, the lack of attractiveness on the surface is also its extraordinary excellence. Jackson and his partners have crafted such a machine, which can prove the incredible problems that biological scientists have solved in the past 3,000 years.

LavaAmp may be the world's smallest chain reactor-the most basic biotechnological device that can quickly replicate DNA. The chain reaction instrument can regularly raise and lower the temperature in the machine, so that the polymerase chain reaction-that is, PCR-can be carried out. The discovery of this reaction and how to control it is one of the basic achievements that can really be applied to the industrial scale after the invention of genetic engineering in 1983. The ability of PCR is not only to copy DNA, it also allows researchers to copy specific DNA fragments. As long as the biotechnologist knows how to formulate the appropriate reagents, he can use the chain reaction instrument to synthesize a large number of genes they want to splice in a short time. Biotech drugs, genetically modified crops and synthetic biofuels all require PCR reactions, which is the most basic link in the manufacturing process. For a long time, the chain reaction instrument has been crucial to all genetic engineering projects.

Previously, a chain reactor had to spend tens of thousands of dollars in the laboratory. To some extent, this is understandable. Although this machine may sound no different from a high-end electric clay pot, PCR requires precise temperature control to react. Even though the chain reactor is now a routine device in a biological laboratory, what it does is still incredible. For billions of years after the DNA was formed in the original slurry, it has been copying itself at its own pace and using itself as a template. This process is only a moment in the history of the earth. Now, we have machines that can tailor specific DNA sequences when we want. Should such a machine be expensive? After all, even God's toolbox has one.

Jackson doesn't think so. LavaAmp is his proud work.

LavaAmp's expected retail price is less than $ 100. This is to achieve a goal: to allow scientists to manipulate DNA as easily as in a biological laboratory in the San Francisco Bay area, even in a Congolese village. Or, at least about as convenient. A basic common spirit of DIY biotechnology is that it is good enough to be close enough.

Jackson and Nunez-Mujica believe that LavaAmp is easy to carry, versatile, and inexpensive, and these features will eventually make it an important part of the diagnostic kit in developing countries. Unlike the typical kits used by public medical workers today, using the LavaAmp kit to detect different disease markers does not require a separate reagent system for each type of bacteria. Instead, doctors or public medical technicians only need a small set of different primers. Primers are a small piece of genetic code that can mark the start and end points of DNA fragments that need to be cut and copied.

In the ideal picture of Nunez-Mujica, a medical worker can quickly reach a remote place like Guanarito after an outbreak. All he needs to do is bring LavaAmp, a DNA reading chip, and some tubes with primers specifically used to detect diseases such as hemorrhagic fever, trypanosomiasis, and dengue fever, and then the worker can quickly detect the different pathogens that cause these three diseases. Creatures, and in a few minutes know which pathogen is causing the plague outbreak.

The raw materials used for testing are cheap, the tools are portable, and the technology is highly efficient. Governments in developing countries are fully able to afford to purchase such tool boxes in bulk. And entrepreneurs do not need to rely on millions of dollars of venture capital support to produce and sell LavaAmp tool boxes. It is important to know that a large amount of venture capital injection requires the company to make tens of millions of dollars annually to make this investment pay off. This is especially important when you are producing a product for the poorest groups in the world.

Another key part of the tool box is a small electronic chip that can read information from DNA samples processed by LavaAmp. Such a device has not yet been developed, but the steady development of sequencing technology makes this device seem likely to be developed. All the above parts will be small enough to be clamped on the belt.

This is a method of extensive use of biotechnology, which is also the main reason why some people are skeptical of biology outside the system. If you decorate a Honda Civic in the style of "Speed ​​and Passion" in your garage, but the car can't start, then pick up a socket wrench and screw it up until the car starts. During this process, your car will not drive Hexi, at least not as the creature died. You have just finished a huge iPhone app, but what if it keeps sending your credit card number to all your Weibo fans? You must be working on the loopholes. You will not delete all the code, and you cannot solve this problem in a hundred ways. Only in biological projects will there be real death. Therefore, in general, strict management of experimental equipment is regarded as a very important prerequisite for biological laboratory work.

In an ideal laboratory, bright white light sprinkles on the shiny black bench. But in fact, such a perfect laboratory exists only in the setting of Hollywood movies, and in the PR manual of the top research universities in the country. In developing countries, power supply and running water are not guaranteed, and sterile test conditions are usually a luxury that can only be viewed from afar, especially when working in the field. But the developers of LavaAmp believe that their devices can do their best.

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