This week, we can report two major events - one of them took place in Riga: we had the chance to participate in the 1st 2017 working group meeting of Cystinet, the european network on taeniasis and cysticercosis. But also back home in Berlin we made great progress: we successfully established a protocol to detect trigger RNA with our sensor on a membrane!

Going to Riga: Working group meeting of Cystinet

Cystinet is an extensive, multi-disciplinary scientific network founded 3 years ago through the European Cooperation in Science & Technology. The network brings together different working groups in the field of taeniasis and cysticercosis - diseases spread by either the pork or the beef tapeworm - and offers an excellent platform to discuss most recent findings in this field and innovative research strategie

The first Cystinet meeting of the current year took place in Riga, where we had the opportunity to present our project within the working group "Diagnosis". It was a great honour to be invited to participate in this event and we were proud to receive a lot of positive feedback on our scientific concept.  Additionally, we had the opportunity to meet tapeworm experts with different backgrounds and to discuss new perspectives on this field. For instance, we received input from the veterinary perspective as well as news about the latest technical developments for diagnosing the diseases. We intend to pursue this connection and to contribute to increase the scientific knowledge of taeniasis/cysticerosis!

Colour reaction on membrane with RNA switch

Despite making good progress on the way to the tapeworm test, one specific problem was bugging us for a while now: Even though we have been able to produce a colour reaction with an RNA switch in solution, we were experiencing difficulties in triggering the corresponding colour reaction on a membrane with this kind of sensor. Previous publications stated that RNA switches could be used for paper-based diagnostics, i.e. they can produce a colour change on a membrane.

Pre-testing the functionality of the dye showed that the dye itself can produce a colour change on a membrane, but triggering this color reaction with a RNA switch did not work on a membrane, just in solution - although we followed the exact reported protocol of the publications.

Therefore, we got creative and soon developed an idea of a possible solution to our remaining unsolved problem: both RNA and the cellulose membrane are charged molecules that are prone to non-specific electrostatic interactions, leading to interference with the desired specific RNA-RNA interaction. In order to minimize this electrostatic interference and to obtain a specific RNA-RNA interaction, we tested different buffering agents. Finally, we solved the problem! On Monday, we could observe a clearly visible color reaction for the triggered RNA switch (purple) compared to the control (yellow).

Why previous publications did not mention this problem remains mysterious, but we are sure glad we came up with a solution!

(If you want to know more about our protocols, do not hesitate to contact us!)