DNA sequencing reveals unexpected ingredients in Chinese medicines

Some traditional Chinese medicines (TCMs) contain bits of endangered animals, potentially poisonous plants, and unlabeled ingredients, according to a study conducted at Murdoch University (Perth, Western Australia).1 The study falls on the heels of the federal government's decision to register Chinese medical practitioners in the same way as other health professionals.

The researchers, using second-generation DNA sequencing, analyzed ingredients in 15 TCMs and found that three-quarters of them contained undeclared animal products, including the critically endangered Asiatic black bear, plus water buffalo, domestic cow, and deer species, explains Mike Bunce of Murdoch University, who led the study. Another product, which claimed to contain 100 percent Saiga antelope (also critically endangered) horn powder, also contained goat and sheep DNA. Bunce's team also identified material from up to 30 plant families, including some that are highly allergenic and many of which were not labeled on the packaging. One of note is the Aristolochiaceae plant family—known as wild ginger—which contains Aristolochic acid, a carcinogen.

Second-generation DNA sequencing involves pyrosequencing, which enabled Bunce and his team to analyze lots of DNA from the samples simultaneously. "Literally millions of DNA sequences can be determined in parallel," Bunce told BioOptics World. Using a commercial system (Roche's GS Junior benchtop sequencer), the team imaged hundreds of thousands of sequences on a surface about the size of a coin, he explains. Then, the A, T, C, and G DNA bases were washed over this surface (many times in a specific order), and the sequencer's CCD camera picked up flashes of light when either A, T, C, or G incorporated into the DNA. These light flashes were then converted into raw DNA sequences, he says, and compared to databases of known animal and plant DNA sequences.

The TCMs tested in the study were confiscated by Australian customs for breaking environment laws, and were not registered medicines. "But I would not be surprised if those products were for sale in Australia," says Bunce.

1. M.L. Coghlan et al., PLoS Genet., 8, 4, e1002657, doi:10.1371/journal.pgen.1002657 (2012).

More BioOptics World Current Issue Articles
More BioOptics World Archives Issue Articles

Get All the BioOptics World News Delivered to Your Inbox

Subscribe to BioOptics World Magazine or email newsletter today at no cost and receive the latest news and information.

 Subscribe Now
Related Articles

Laser microdissection, sequencing method combine to analyze whole genome

By combining laser microdissection and next-generation sequencing (NGS), researchers at the Ruhr University Bochum (RUB) Department of General and Molecular Botany have analyzed gene activity in th...

Pacific Biosciences, Imec to collaborate on single-molecule sequencing solution

Genome sequencing technology developer and maker Pacific Biosciences (NASDAQ:PACB) and nanoelectronics research center Imec (Leuven, Belgium) will enter into a multi-year research collaboration foc...

Rutgers University boosts next-generation sequencing sample access

The Rutgers University Cell and DNA Repository (RUCDR), the largest cell and DNA biobank in the US, has adopted PerkinElmer's technologies for automation of next-generation sequencing (NGS) sample ...

GENOMICS/DNA SEQUENCING: Partnerships advance light-based DNA sequencing

Biophotonics technologies are being investigated in at least a couple of interesting new ways for DNA sequencing.


Neuro15 exhibitors meet exacting demands: Part 2

Increasingly, neuroscientists are working with researchers in disciplines such as chemistry and p...

Why be free?

A successful career contributed to keeping OpticalRayTracer—an optical design software program—fr...

LASER Munich 2015 is bio-bent

LASER World of Photonics 2015 included the European Conferences on Biomedical Optics among its si...

White Papers

Understanding Optical Filters

Optical filters can be used to attenuate or enhance an image, transmit or reflect specific wavele...

How can I find the right digital camera for my microscopy application?

Nowadays, image processing is found in a wide range of optical microscopy applications. Examples ...



Twitter- BioOptics World

Copyright © 2007-2016. PennWell Corporation, Tulsa, OK. All Rights Reserved.PRIVACY POLICY | TERMS AND CONDITIONS