Home Cellular science Chennai start-up facilitates DNA extraction

Chennai start-up facilitates DNA extraction


Medical treatment is increasingly in genetics. Your medications are tailored to your genetic makeup. DNA extraction has become important for studying the genetic causes of disease; it is also needed for forensic science, genome sequencing, and detection of pathogens such as bacteria and viruses.

DNA – a very large molecule of phosphates, sugars and nucleobases – is mainly found in the nucleus of every cell in the body (human, plant, animal and microbe), but also present in the mitochondria (a cellular organ) and in the bloodstream (called cell-free DNA).

DNA extraction for study has been done for centuries. But today, the search is for new DNA extraction technologies that are easier, more accurate and cheaper.

Chennai-based start-up MagGenome has come up with a new technology that makes DNA extraction ridiculously easy. The method, which can be used for both RNA and protein extraction, is simple: make iron nanoparticles, make them attach to DNA and apply a magnetic field. When iron nanoparticles are attracted by the magnetic field, DNA arrives. Get rid of the nanoparticles and you have DNA.

The science behind the technology is basically getting the nanoparticles to attach to DNA.

Dr. CN Ramchand, CEO of MagGenome Technologies, said Quantum that scientists have in recent years developed a range of nucleic acid extraction systems, but they are based on magnetic nanoparticles that are coated with chemicals like ethylene glycol and citrates. Nanoparticle coating is expensive and time-consuming; the use of uncoated nanoparticles is also more efficient because, with a high surface-to-volume ratio, they bind better with DNA/RNA/proteins. A few companies such as Thermo Fisher Scientific, QIAGEN, Beckman Coulter, and Omega Bio-tek use coated nanoparticles, but Ramchand says MagGenome is the only one that uses uncoated nanoparticles.

How it works

First, the cell wall (membrane) is broken down (a process called “lysis”) by special detergents; the contents of the cell spill out. All proteins and other cellular materials are removed by enzymatic treatment – various enzymes combine with different cell organelles and are washed away. Once these “contaminants” are removed, a unique formulation of DNA condensing agents, salts and magnetic nanoparticles are added. The nanoparticles bind to the DNA, which can be separated magnetically.

MagGenome Technologies sells DNA/RNA/protein extraction kits. (An associated company provides DNA extraction service.) The technology was incubated in SciGenom Labs, Kochi; the company was incorporated in 2018 and received $3 million in funding from Emerge Ventures, Singapore. Ramchand says it has been profitable since 2021. He says that with new diagnostic tools like liquid biopsy for cancer and non-invasive prenatal testing using next-generation sequencing becoming popular, “we see good prospects for our enterprise”.