Scientists Create Portable DNA-Analyzing Devices

March 22, 2017

Unlocking Word Meanings

Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article. 

1. segment / ˈsɛg mənt / (n.) – a part of something that can be divided
Example: The network company controls a large segment of the market.

2. ease / iz / (v.) – to lessen the difficulty of something or someone
Example: The innovation eased the consumers’ problem in queuing.

3. remote / rɪˈmoʊt / (adj.) – distant or far
Example: The government plans to reach out to remote provinces.

4. real-time / ˈri əlˈtaɪm / (adj.) – describing the actual time during which a process occurs
ExampleReal-time testing of the new software was broadcasted yesterday.

5. appeal / əˈpil / (v.) – to attract or get the attention of someone or something
Example: The new product will certainly appeal to young professionals.


Read the text below.
Two groups of researchers have created smartphone-based DNA-analyzing devices that can aid medical research.

The first group is composed of researchers from the University of California-Los Angeles (UCLA), Stockholm University, and Uppsala University. The researchers created a portable device that functions as a microscope to give accurate DNA analysis and infection identification. The device, which can be attached to any smartphone, uses specialized lens and laser components to examine segments of a patient’s DNA.

The researchers aim to aid medical professionals in curing cancer and infectious diseases through the device, which is less costly than a lab-based kit. Moreover, they want to ease hospitals and medical institutions from the trouble of sending DNA samples to remote laboratories. The researchers also added that if mass-produced, the device will cost less than $500.

The second group, UK-based firm Oxford Nanopore Technologies also developed a portable device called SmidgION, which can also be attached to a mobile phone to analyze DNA samples.

SmidgION is smaller than Oxford’s previous DNA-analyzing device called MinION. According to Clive Brown, chief technology officer of the firm, their newest device uses the same DNA sequencing technology as their other devices. However, this device will be using an electronics-based test instead of specialized lenses and lasers. SmidgION is expected to be available in the market this year.

SmidgION has a variety of potential functions, such as monitoring disease outbreaks and   real-time species identification of wildlife, food, and other samples. In line with this, the firm expects that the device will appeal to medical and field researchers.

Viewpoint Discussion

Enjoy a discussion with your tutor.  

Discussion A

·         What are the possible advantages and disadvantages of portable DNA-analyzing devices?
·         Do you think these devices should be made available to the general public? Why or why not?

Discussion B

·         What medical tools or devices will work well as smartphone attachments? Why?
·         What medical devices or tools should be made portable? Discuss.

March 22, 2017