Many challenges arise when trying to amplify and analyze human samples collected in the field due to limitations in sample quantity, and contamination of the starting material. Tests such as DNA fingerprinting and mitochondrial typing require a certain sample size and are carried out in large volume reactions; in cases where insufficient sample is present whole genome amplification (WGA) can be used. WGA allows very small quantities of DNA to be amplified in a way that enables subsequent DNA-based tests to be performed. A limiting step to WGA is sample preparation. To minimize the necessary sample size, we have developed two modifications of WGA: the first allows for an increase in amplified product from small, nanoscale, purified samples with the use of carrier DNA while the second is a single-step method for cleaning and amplifying samples all in one column. Conventional DNA cleanup involves binding the DNA to silica, washing away impurities, and then releasing the DNA for subsequent testing. We have eliminated losses associated with incomplete sample release, thereby decreasing the required amount of starting template for DNA testing. Both techniques address the limitations of sample size by providing ample copies of genomic samples. Carrier DNA, included in our WGA reactions, can be used when amplifying samples with the standard purification method, or can be used in conjunction with our single-step DNA purification technique to potentially further decrease the amount of starting sample necessary for future forensic DNA-based assays.
The BioBriefcase is an integrated briefcase-sized aerosol collection and analysis system for autonomous monitoring of the environment, which is currently being jointly developed by Lawrence Livermore and Sandia National Laboratories. This poster presents results from the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) module of the system. The DNA must be purified after exiting the aerosol collector to prevent inhibition of the enzymatic reaction. Traditional solid-phase extraction results in a large loss of sample. In this flow-through system, we perform sample purification, concentration and amplification in one reactor, which minimizes the loss of material. The sample from the aerosol collector is mixed with a denaturation solution prior to flowing through a capillary packed with silica beads. The DNA adheres to the silica beads allowing the environmental contaminants to be flushed to waste while effectively concentrating the DNA on the silica matrix. The adhered DNA is amplified while on the surface of the silica beads, resulting in a lower limit of detection than an equivalent eluted sample. Thus, this system is beneficial since more DNA is available for amplification, less reagents are utilized, and contamination risks are reduced.