Clinical Chemistry / Molecular Diagnostics

Teen wins UK Young Engineer of 2013 for building DNA analyser in his bedroom

Teen wins UK Young Engineer of 2013 for building DNA analyser in his bedroomAdvanced technology in today’s fast paced world has made it simpler and cheaper to operate clinical laboratories and has enabled a teenage boy to build his own DNA analyser in his bedroom. Fred Turner, 17, from Yorkshire, England used the analyser to identify the gene mutation that gives his brother red hair.

The fact that Turner was able to create a DNA analyser that he can operate from his bedroom is a reminder to laboratory professionals that the cost of sequencing a base pair is falling dramatically, in addition, advances in gene sequencing technology have made it simple enough for an intelligent teenager to build his own DNA analyser and get accurate results from it.

Turner built a PCR machine, which took him about a year and cost £400 to complete. After reading about a man in the USA built a similar machine, he was inspired to do the same. He used part of an old video player that was in his house for part of the machine. The machine performed DNA amplification. After collecting buccal cells from his brothers cheek, he heated the cells to 95 degrees Celsius to release the DNA from the cells. After which, the solution was put into a centrifuge to separate the DNA from the rest of the specimen.

The DNA was then added to an enzyme and primer and loaded onto his DNA analyser. Two hours later he was able to harvest the resulting sample, which was sent to a laboratory for analysis. The lab confirmed that his brother’s DNA had the sequences that produce the red hair mutation. Turner opted for sequencing that could not be performed at home. The sequencing provides a genetic code of As, Gs, Cs, Ts and the mutation for red hair is just one letter different in the code. This is called a SNP, and was identified in the sample.

To identify the mutation, Turner already knew what he was looking for as you can look up the genome on the internet. When the sample was returned from the lab, he was able to see the mutation that causes his brother’s red hair. The fact that Turner was able to take the DNA sequence and identify the mutation, should be noted by molecular scientists.

This development proves that diagnostic technologies are making significant improvements, making it cheaper and simpler to perform laboratory tests in any setting.


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