MAISRC researchers worked to developed a novel aquatic eDNA collection and concentration technology for more efficient, reliable and cost-effective screening for not only invasive aquatic organisms and pathogens but also native and endangered species.
This project aimed to develop a novel aquatic eDNA collection and concentration technology for more efficient, reliable and cost-effective screening for not only invasive aquatic organisms and pathogens but also native and endangered species. Although some success has been found with using eDNA to find and quantify populations, they typically require numerous samples from each site and are prone to either false positives or false negatives. This improved sampling technique will reduce costs per sample, reduce staff time needed for sampling, and improve the accuracy and efficiency of current detection methods. The technology would significantly enable and empower aquatic ecosystem survey and management programs in Minnesota. Specifically, the project aimed to 1) develop an eDNA nanofilter that specifically and rapidly captures nucleic acids (DNA, RNA) from water and enable the processing of large volumes of samples within a short period of time, 2) Verify increased eDNA sampling efficiency of the new nanofilter in field settings (proof-of-concept).
Researchers successfully developed a new eDNA filter that captures 50-100% of eDNA within 10 seconds. Commercial kits are incapable of capturing free eDNA. The loading capacity of the new filter is
up to 5 mg/g, meaning that 1 g of filter can capture up to 5 mg of DNA. This is a record-breaking capacity that enables the filtration of large volumes of water with one filter, knowing that surface water contains usually 10 ng/L of eDNA.
Following the COVID-19 pandemic, researchers had to adapted the nonfilter to develop an RNA extraction kit for SARS-CoV-2. The new kit was evaluated by the University of Minnesota COVID-19 Diagnostic Laboratory on 80 patient samples, and it showed that our kit has a 100% specificity and 94% sensitivity, which is respectively 12.8% and 5.4% higher than the widely used Qiagen kits.
Ecosystem conservation managers have been relatively reluctant to use eDNA as a routine tool for ecosystems monitoring. The results obtained here can have a significant impact on the widespread adoption of eDNA technology, which will help the State enhance the accuracy and quality of the data and improve decision making for the management of invasive species. This work has also led to starting a new company, which is expected to accelerate the transfer of the technology to the market, and enhance the industry capacity to respond to the State’s need for AIS management.