30th April 2012
It is important to be able to monitor genetically modified (GM) crops, not only in the field but also during the food processing chain. New research published in BioMed Central’s open access journal BMC Biotechnology shows that products from genetically modified organisms (GMO) can be identified at low concentration, in non-GMO, using bioluminescent real time reporter (BART) technology and loop mediated isothermal amplification (LAMP). The combination of these techniques was able to recognise 0.1% GM contamination of maize, far below the current EU limit of 0.9%.
In agriculture GM crops have been bred to improve crop yield or viability, for example some are resistant to herbicides or viruses. However there is a debate about the safety of these crops and whether the man-made transgenes might enter the wild population by cross-fertilization.and produce herbicide resistant weeds.
Careful handling and sampling techniques are usually required to assess the GM content of a crop. The most common technique is polymerase chain reaction (PCR), however, this technique requires complex extraction techniques, rapid thermocycling, and expensive equipment. To overcome these problems researchers from Lumora and the University of Cardiff assessed whether they could use LAMP to amplify DNA at a constant temperature and use bioluminescent probes to identify GM-specific DNA in real time.
Dr Guy Kiddle from Lumora, who led the research, explained that LAMP-BART was able to detect as little as 0.1% GM contamination of maize, and that it was more tolerant of contaminating polysaccharides meaning that the DNA clean-up process did not need to be as thorough. He commented, “This method requires only basic equipment for DNA extraction, a constant temperature, and simple light detection. Consequently LAMP-BART provides a field ready technique for monitoring GMO and GMO infiltration into other crops or contamination during processing.”
Dr Laurence Tisi, CEO of Lumora, added “I am delighted by the outcome of this research, which provides yet another demonstration of the simplicity and power of BART detection. With the assays developed in this programme we now have a great platform for GMO detection, and will be offering this to partners for commercialisation”.
Lumora specialises in the development of robust, affordable and easy-to use molecular diagnostics systems based on its proprietary 'BART' technology. The company was founded in 2002 as a spin-out from the Institute of Biotechnology at the University of Cambridge, and now employs 13 people with a wide range of experience and operates from a dedicated, 6,100 sq ft facility. The scientific team of nine includes four senior post-docs as well as IVD industry experienced process development staff. Capabilities include bioinformatics, primer design, test optimisation, test evaluation, protocol optimisation, reagent stabilisation and scale-up guidance. Lumora has microbiology experts in-house and facilities to deal with many common pathogens.