NEC Develops Portable DNA Analyzer

Nov 22, 2013
Ikutaro Kojima, Tech-On!
The portable DNA analyzer under development. The plastic chip is located at the tip of the red arrow. And tools such as for collecting samples are seen to the right of the chip.
The portable DNA analyzer under development. The plastic chip is located at the tip of the red arrow. And tools such as for collecting samples are seen to the right of the chip.
[Click to enlarge image]

NEC Corp exhibited a prototype of the portable DNA analyzer that it has been developing at C&C User Forum & iExpo 2013, which took place from Nov 14 to 15, 2013, in Tokyo.

According to the company, when a DNA analysis is performed for a crime investigation, samples are collected at the crime scene, but they are analyzed at a special institution or department such as a crime laboratory. Therefore, it takes time to obtain the results of the analysis (normally two to three days including the time spent transporting the samples).

With the new device, it will become possible to perform a DNA analysis in about 25 minutes at a crime scene, NEC said.

Currently, at most of such special institutions and departments in Japan, DNA analyzers manufactured in the US are used. Though they can handle 96 samples at the same time, their sizes are large. The new portable DNA analyzer deals with only one sample, but it is as small as a suitcase and about 32kg in weight so that it can be carried to a crime scene.

Despite its portability, it is capable of DNA extraction, PCR (polymerase chain reaction) amplification (a process to increase the amount of DNA), electrophoresis (a process to measure the size of DNA) and STR (short tandem repeat) analysis (a process to determine individual differences). DNA extraction, PCR amplification and electrophoresis became possible with a plastic chip developed by a partner company. It is a substrate on which a sample is set, given a reagent and so forth.

If the portable analyzer is connected to a PC, etc, it is possible, for example, to use database stored at police headquarters in analysis.

With the analyzer, it currently takes about 60 minutes to perform a DNA analysis. But NEC is ready to reduce it to about 25 minutes, the company said. It plans to release a model for screening within 2014 and a model for full profiling in 2015.