Covenant Faculty Develops Rapid DNA Isolation Method
With a view to introducing DNA extraction laboratory practical in secondary schools across Africa, an Associate Professor of Virology in the Department of Biological Sciences, Covenant University, Dr. Angela Eni has in conjunction with one of her students, Miss Oluwaseunnlafunmi Oke, developed a rapid and inexpensive DNA isolation kit for secondary schools, using locally available materials.
DNA, according to Dr. Eni, is a molecule that carries the hereditary material of organisms. “Generally, it is housed within the nucleus in the cell of cellular organisms or eukaryotic organisms. For prokaryotic organisms like bacteria, that do not have a membrane-bound nucleus, the DNA is housed within the cell membrane,” she added.
Extraordinary advances in the DNA era of science, she averred, has opened a unique window of opportunity that has empowered humans to proffer solutions to the myriad of agricultural, medical and environmental challenges that we face and also, applications of recombinant DNA technology has resulted in the production of better yielding plants with resistance to pests, new vaccines and enzymes to prevent diseases as well as bacteria capable of cleaning up oil spills.
These dramatic gains, Dr. Eni noted, are however like the green revolution, lost to many Africans because the necessary facilities required to benefit from and maximize the recombinant DNA technology revolution is lacking in most African nations. Worst still is the fact that the indigenous manpower required to spearhead the desperately needed solutions for Africa is grossly limited, she asserted.
Stating the motive behind the research, Dr. Eni, who is the Team Leader, of the Covenant University Hub of the West African Virus Epidemiology (WAVE) for root and tuber crops, said she observed that both her undergraduate and postgraduate students struggle with molecular biology concepts and techniques mainly because these were not introduced to the students on time and appropriately. This, she said, has been a reoccurring challenge over the years, hence one of the solution would be to bring DNA or the molecular biology studies home to young people in a practical way that they would understand and early enough to capture their interest.
One of the reasons why both secondary schools and some higher institutions in Nigeria do not teach their students DNA extraction, she revealed, is because the kits required for conducting these “young mind entrancing” laboratory practical are either too expensive and/or unavailable in most schools in Africa including some higher institutions unlike elsewhere around the world, where the knowledge of DNA and the huge potentials locked therein is introduced to youngsters in secondary schools.
Based on this realization, she and her student decided to use locally available materials in Nigeria to develop a kit that would allow them introduce DNA extraction as a science laboratory practical in secondary school. However, because her student was working for a B.Sc. in Microbiology degree, it became important that they included some microbiology in her work.
"Once we had the DNA isolation kits for the secondary Schools and it was working very well, we assessed the possibility of using it for DNA isolation from microorganisms. We successfully isolated high purity and high concentration of DNA from the two major groups of bacteria – gram positive and gram negative bacteria. Although we set out to make a kit for secondary school, because of how good this initial stage has turned out, we want to optimize and make kits for molecular biology laboratory practical in higher institutions as well. We can even take it further, because if this kit is extracting good quality DNA from bacteria, then it can be optimized for use in research,” Dr. Eni stated.
On her next move on the discovery, Dr. Eni said that there were discussions with the Covenant University Centre for Research, Innovation and Discovery (CUCRID) on the need for patency and also, to demonstrate that DNA isolation kit to secondary school students in Nigeria under the platform of a Science Day Programme.
“My personal goal is to equip students. When students come to me in the university, either as undergraduate or postgraduate students, I need students who have the basic background and possibly are already keen on molecular biology, because they know these things are possible, having been appropriately introduced in secondary school. This in my view is one of the ways to developing the critically needed indigenous manpower required to proffer the indigenous African solutions to our several challenges,” Dr. Eni stated.