New Technology Can Test How Toxic a Substance is to Your DNA

DNA (1)Marco Torres, Prevent Disease
Waking Times

A technique for high throughput screening of substances that could cause DNA damage has been developed by scientists. The technology allows for testing of drugs and cosmetics that could pose a risk to human health, and assesses damage done to DNA, while reducing reliance on animal testing, researchers say.

As more hand held and portable devices on the market are being developed for nanoparticle-based DNA sensing, many are able to detect and analyze organisms one-thousandth of the width of a human hair.

In the not too distant future, consumers will even be able to run on-the-spot tests for environmental toxins, GMOs, pesticides, food safety and more with their smartphones and other hand-held devices.

Although still not cost-effective for the retail market and not yet capable of handling mobile configurations, the University of Leicester has teamed up with Cleaver Scientific Ltd., a specialist UK-based manufacturer, for the development and commercialization of high throughput systems for performing Comet Assay.

The Comet Assay, also known as single cell gel electrophoresis, is a sensitive and reliable technique for the detection of DNA damage in individual cells. The test is increasingly used as a method of assessing substances — including drugs and cosmetics — that could pose a potential risk to human or environmental health by causing damage to DNA. In recent years, it has also gained recognition by regulators as a way of reducing reliance on animal testing.

  • As demand for comet screening has increased, sample throughput has become a limiting factor.

    Researchers from the University of Leicester’s Department of Cancer Studies and Molecular Medicine, in collaboration with Cleaver Scientific Ltd., have developed a novel, high throughput method of performing the assay which is set to overcome this problem and to push down the costs of processing large numbers of samples.

    Dr Marcus Cooke, lead inventor of the new process, said: “Like many other labs, we use the Comet Assay routinely in our research, but we have always been frustrated by the current process, which is laborious and time consuming. Our new electrophoresis method allows us to increase the number of test samples on a given run by up to ten-fold and to complete the assay in less than half the time of the traditional comet process.”

    Adrian Cleaver, Managing Director of Cleaver Scientific Ltd., said: “Cleaver Scientific is known for being a market leader in innovative electrophoresis equipment, so we were delighted when Leicester approached us with this new method to improve the Comet Assay. We have since worked with Dr Cooke and his team to develop a range of compact, bench-top systems and we are launching the first of these — the COMPAC-50 — today.”

    For more information on the COMPAC-50 please visit:

    Dr James Lapworth, Senior Licensing & Commercialisation Manager at the University of Leicester, said: “This is a great example of a new and innovative product arising from the pursuit of fundamental research. Partnering early with Cleaver has allowed us to move from a simple prototype to a market-ready product in just a few months. We are now excited to see the impact that this new approach will have on the important field of DNA damage and toxicology testing.”

    About the Author

    Marco Torres is a research specialist, writer and consumer advocate for healthy lifestyles. He holds degrees in Public Health and Environmental Science and is a professional speaker on topics such as disease prevention, environmental toxins and health policy.

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