New technology could lead to quicker, more accurate test results

Local News

HUNTINGDON, Pa. (WTAJ) — You may have had some sort of medical testing done in your life. Whether it’s a cheek swab or blood work, those samples are sent to a lab for testing. New technology from a company working out of Juniata College goes a few steps further to get a quicker and more accurate result by going straight to the DNA source.

The current way labs perform diagnostic testing is to culture organisms using a petri dish, a process Regina Lamendella, co-founder of Contamination Source Identification said has its limitations.

“When we try to grow organisms, they’re actually really tricky to grow. It takes a lot of different types of media. It’s hard to mimic the conditions that bacteria like to grow under. And we can actually only grow about 1 percent of all the micro organisms out there,” she said.

But new technology is changing the game.

“We believe this is going to transform disease diagnosis.”

Regina Lamendella

A wet lab robot extracts DNA from a sample. Then, the vile of DNA liquid is put into a DNA sequencer. The team can then see which pathogens are present in the sample.

“By decoding the sequence of the DNA we can identify exactly who’s in there so it’s almost like a bacterial thumbprint of what organisms are in any sample,” Lamendella said.

The company is currently working on diagnosing Lyme’s disease, an illness Lamendella said can be easily treated if found early on.

“It can have up to and over 50 percent false negative rate, so 50 percent of the time or more, you, in fact, have Lyme’s disease, but the test is not detecting that,” she said. “There are many, over 90 different tick-borne associated pathogens out there. Our test will be able to all of them.”

On Wednesday, the company applied for three patents for their technology and will apply for their Clinical Lab Certification in October. They hope to have the test system available by early next year.

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