Nils Walter comments in Chemistry World on new technique published in Angew. Chem. Int. Ed., 2017, DOI: 10.1002/anie.201705330 for measuring small amounts of DNA. Nils Walter, a single molecule analysis researcher at the Univeristy of Michigan, US, and co-founder of Alight Sciences, believes ‘this paper provides a technology that works reliably, sensitively, avoiding the need of complicated workups of the samples, making analyses easier to perform’. Like the authors, he says direct detection methods compare favourably with PCR. ‘[PCR] works on assumptions that all biomarkers can be equally detected, and needs unreliable enzymatic amplification […] among other issues. Direct detections overcome these challenges, which is one of the steps forward of this work.’ Walter also finds important that the authors show ‘a proof of principle with human serum’, which is quite close to a real-life sample.
ADNA can reach the detection limits of PCR and go even further. ‘[Our] technique also allows the quantification of short oligonucleotides such as microRNA, which are difficult to detect with PCR due to the difficulty of designing the proper primer sequences,’ explains Nam. ‘It also minimises false positive signals, allowing reliable quantification of target DNA sequences.’ Walter adds: ‘This technique discriminates against spurious background binding events, […] it has a lot of promise.’ And applications for this type of technology could be on the horizon. ‘We just created a biotech start-up to commercialise a similar approach!’ concludes Walter.