Environment monitoring, security and food quality control Nanoparticle assisted PCR for food and environmental control applications

Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) is one of the most popular tools in molecular biology. This technique allows to amplify a single or a few copies of a specific region of a DNA strand (the target DNA) across several orders of magnitude, generating thousands to millions of copies of a particular DNA sequence of interest allowing its detection within a short period of time.

The PCR technique has many advantages such as high sensitivity, a broad number of applications (in clinical, food and environmental field), and a quantification potential in the case of real-time quantitative PCR (qPCR). However, its use by control and diagnosis laboratories might be hampered by some important drawbacks that, if not under control, might affect reliability of the analytical methods.

In the last years, nanoparticle (NP)-assisted PCR (NP-PCR) or the use of nanomaterials to improve and/or better control both end-point and qPCR has shown an increased interest by the scientific community. NPs such as carbon nanotubes, quantum dots, and gold NPs have been combined with PCR with interesting results.

Different approaches are being investigated concerning the use of NPs to improve both PCR and qPCR for its use as analytical tools;

(i) NPs are being tested as additives in the reaction mixture for both PCR and qPCR, in order to evaluate the effect of NPs on efficiency and specificity, and in order to understand the possible mechanisms of interaction between different NPs and PCR.

(ii) Primer-functionalized NPs are also being used in order to evaluate the possible interaction with different PCR reagents, the best combination of NPs and to explore their use on qPCR due to the fluorescent-quenching properties of some possible combinations of primer-functionalized NPs

Analytical methods based on NP-PCR are being developed and its fitness-for-purpose evaluated for food and environmental control applications, such as for the detection of allergenic ingredients in food samples and the authenticity of food ingredients.