Hyderabad: A portable device developed by researchers at BITS Pilani, Hyderabad will help reduce the time taken for DNA amplification or polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test to 15-30 minutes and make it accessible to even those living in remote areas.

The device was developed by research scholars Madhusudan B Kulkarni, Srashti Goyal, professors Arti Dhar, D Sriram, and Sanket Goel as part of the project funded by the institute’s Center for Human Disease. The research has been published in Institute of Electrical & Electronics Engineers (IEEE) Xplore.

“For 30 cycles, it is taking about 26 minutes to get the result using the device we developed,” said Goel, associate professor, electrical and electronics engineering at the institute. While the conventional PCR machines are bulky and cost about 4 lakh to 5 lakh, the device developed by the researchers is compact and costs hardly 2,000.

“The device will fit in a palm and can be used anywhere as it is just plug and play. It is a miniaturised version. Further research has brought down cost by 50%, time taken to give a result to 20 minutes,” said Madhusudan, adding that in conventional PCR, it takes at least about 90 minutes to get a result.

While the researchers had conducted their study to test tuberculosis, they said the same can be used to test Covid-19 and other diseases. “It can be used at room temperature. It has inbuilt heaters and can easily attain a maximum temperature of 300°C,” said Goel adding that IoT and bluetooth modules provide access to real-time temperature values that can be stored on a smartphone, making the device suitable for point-of-care applications. The device has been designed using a carbon dioxide laser for PCR.

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