Molecular Diagnostics: Targets And Travels

Dr Rachana, Gaurav Pathak and Vagish Anand

Introduction: Molecular diagnostics is a modern branch of science/biotechnology which helps in detecting molecules specifically and at a very high sensitivity. The application of which is in the area of prenatal diagnosis, prognostics of diseased condition, forensic medicine, normal diagnosis for infections and specially in the diseased conditions like cancer and AIDS. At the moment, unlike for bacterial and fungal diseases, no chemicals exist that could be used as a direct field control of viral or viroid diseases, and therefore the early detection by means of sensitive diagnostic methods is the main way to control them.
In case of prenatal conditions, prognostic approach can lead in identifying the genetic predisposition of the new comer to many diseased conditions. Many genetic disorders can also be identified before the birth and can be handled accordingly. Until very recently, only methods based on the protein component of the viral particle were routinely used in plant virus detection. Among them, the serological ones (ELISA) are being used due to their easy use, sensitivity and automation. However, one disadvantage of serology lies in the fact that, only 2-5% of the genetic information of viral genomes, occurs as antigenic determinants on the surface of the coat protein. The advent of molecular biology has revolutionized the diagnosis of diseases. Modern analyses based on the detection of nucleic acids (DNA and RNA). In case of many diseases for which, it takes long time to culture the cells to get the detectable molecule in the required quantity, advanced molecular diagnostic has made it faster as, the need of growing cells for a required period of time is not necessary. PCR like techniques can amplify the DNA/gene/RNA to the detectable limit within minutes. In case of forensic medicine, the sample sizes are so small to use them for diagnostics. In this case also advanced techniques are useful to target the culprit as they can easily amplify the samples to be used.
In short these procedures have many advantages over the routine used other methods:

  • Detect viruses, bacteria, and parasites more rapidly

  • Predict with very high sensitivity, precision and accuracy

  • Suitable to develop specific therapy

  • It is time saving

Molecular diagnostics includes many techniques for example: ELISA, RIA (radio immunoassay), immunoblotting, FIA (florescence immunoassay), FISH (fluorescence in situ hybridization), FACS, PCR, RT–PCR, molecular hybridization, bhiochips and micro-arrays etc. In all these, we target the presence/amount of proteins (antigens) or Nucleic acid (RNA/DNA) in the sample. Like many other areas, this technology also needs support from other areas of science, for example: molecular biology, bioinformatics, computer biology, biomedical engineering, instrumentation, physiology, parasitology and statistics etc., all these are required to perform and finally analyze the desired the information.
The extraordinary progress made on the nucleic acid research, during the last few years, and the application of recombinant DNA technology to plant virology have permitted using diagnostic methods based on the nucleotide sequences of the genome component of viruses and viroids. Some other fields of application are:


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