Sticks and Stones… – The Health Care Blog


Typically I publish about issues in which I see some unpredicted parallel to healthcare, or something just stunned me, or outraged me (there are heaps of things about health care like the latter).  But occasionally I operate across one thing that just delights me.

So when I inexplicably stumbled across DNA Barcoding Technologies for Superior Throughput Cell-Nanoparticle Examine, by Andy Tay, PhD, my first assumed was, oh, nanoparticles, that is always appealing, then it hit me: hold out, DNA has barcodes

How delightful.

We’re all made use of to barcodes.  Pretty substantially every single merchandise in pretty substantially each and every retail outlet has a barcode.  The barcode was invented in the late 1940’s, but did not actually get off in reputation until the UPC (Common Solution Code) barcode.  A Marsh’s Supermarket in Troy, Ohio, in 1974 was the very first grocery merchandise scanned (a pack of Wrigley’s Juicy Fruit Gum, if you are interested).  The UPC barcode encodes the Maker of the product or service, and the product or service code.  

The now almost as ubiquitous QR codes are, effectively, two dimensional barcodes.  Appropriately, they can retailer drastically a lot more details.  

But back again to DNA barcodes.  The principal function is, as you might guess from the name, is to have a standardized way to uniquely discover species, dependent on their DNA (believe of species as the “product”).  The strategies were very first proposed in 2003, by Paul D N Herbert, et alia, and swiftly attained traction.  

Guo, et. alia, describes DNA barcoding as follows:

DNA barcode is just one or additional shorter gene sequences (generally 200–900 foundation pairs) taken from a standardized portion of the genome to support species identification and discovery by employing sequence divergence dependent on nucleotide alignment (Emerson et al. 2011 Hebert et al. 2003a, 2004). Hence, the fundamental purpose of this genetic tool seeks to assess barcode sequences to reference databases to successfully and efficiently assign any organic sample to its species no matter of the visual classification of the sample.

There are databases of DNA barcodes for a wide range of everyday living varieties, together with vegetation, animals, and/or fungi these include the Daring process (Barcode of Daily life Data program),  Unite, Diat.barcode, and iBOL (global E-book of Life).  

In contrast to, say, UPC codes, which can be just assigned, there’s not a universal way to choose which DNA sequences can be employed to barcode an organism, and terrific care should be taken to extract and review it.  To complicate points further more, there are mini-barcodes and meta-barcodes.  I’ll depart it as an training for the extremely fascinated reader to understand more about particularly how all that is accomplished for my functions, it might as perfectly just be magic.

DNA barcodes permit us to look at a rather modest DNA sequence and establish what species it belongs to, which is a excellent enable if 1 is pinpointing new species or attempting to do an assessment of an ecosystem.  For case in point, pupils from a collection of 50 faculties in Australia gathered some 14,000 specimens, submitted 12,500 new DNA barcodes to Bold – 3,000 of which ended up completely new.  Challenge direct Dr Erinn Fagan-Jeffries said: “It is hugely very likely that all contributing schools have located species new to Western science which is definitely thrilling.” 

Lest you feel that all DNA barcodes are excellent for are identification of species, researchers at the Garvin Institute of Health care Research barcoded most cancers cells, in get to fully grasp which kinds had been evading the immune procedure response and immunotherapies.  “We showed that there are scarce cancer cells capable of escaping the immune system and escaping cure with immunotherapy,” explained initially author Louise Baldwin.  

The researchers believe that “the mechanisms could be applied as opportunity targets for therapies, to stop tumorous cells from adapting and spreading. Yet another long run software could be in prognosis, where a substantial quantity of cells could show which clients could not answer to immunotherapy.”

Not poor for a barcode.

Back again to the nanoparticles.  Dr. Tay suggests: “Recently, DNA barcoding systems have been used to produce barcoded cells and nanoparticles to look into heterogeneous cell-nanoparticle interactions to increase the translational application of nanomedicine.”   The new strategies allow “millions of cells to be tracked in excess of developmental and evolutionary time scales and to document cellular attributes in response to stimuli, which includes nanomedicine.”  

Dr. Tay points to investigate by Boehnke, et. al. that “made use of barcoded mobile traces to uncover cell and nanoparticle capabilities to enhance nanomedicine shipping.”  These and other new approaches designed it less complicated and a lot quicker to fully grasp which nanoparticle formulations are owning the sought after consequences.  

I suggest, definitely, is something cooler than injecting DNA barcodes into nanoparticles to help achieve scientific success?   Which is some genuine 21st century medication.


We are DNA creatures.  All everyday living that we know are based on DNA, and it’s not crystal clear to me that we’d even identify an organism primarily based on just about anything else as daily life.   Barcodes are not DNA’s only awesome trick.  It is the nonpareil storage system sometime all our storage desires may possibly be fulfilled applying DNA (sure, I know, some argue to diamonds as the storage medium, but, truly, DNA is way cooler).  As Zhang, et. al. observed before this 12 months,  “DNA has emerged as a effective substrate for programming info processing devices at the nanoscale.”

There ae heading to be DNA/RNA pcs, DNA neural networks/AI, and DNA robots.   Who is familiar with what else?  

Provided all that, I’m even now holding out hope that we’ll sometime have a DNA EHR, with both equally the processing done in DNA and the details stored in DNA, and that we store all that in our have DNA.  Tell me which is not a little something that a visitor from the 22nd century would not respect.  

There is a complete system of get the job done in information concept/mathematical logic about the shortest way to determine statements, numbers, and so on.  DNA barcodes may perhaps do effectively at a lot more basically describing species, but I don’t know that we could not each and every have a one of a kind DNA barcode – shorter than our entire genome – that could be made use of for quite a few applications.  

Our environment would be a great deal diverse devoid of UPC barcodes, QR codes, and personal computers based on silicon chips, but that’s all so 20th century.  In the 21st century, we better be having applied to a lot more techniques we can use DNA.

DNA barcodes — pleasant, certainly.  

Kim is a former emarketing exec at a significant Blues plan, editor of the late & lamented, and now typical THCB contributor.

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