A Field-Portable Thermoplasmonic Plant DNA Extraction Device for Emerging Plant Disease Diagnosis


Phytophthora infestans (P. infestans) causes a serious disease on potato and tomato, known as late blight, and was responsible for the Irish famine and is still a severe threat to global food security. P. infestans has been ranked at the first place of the top 10-oomycete pathogens based on their scientific and economic importance, and causes approximately $6.7 billion potato crop losses worldwide annually. Led by NC State Professors Qingshan Wei from the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering and Jean Ristaino from the Department of Entomology and Plant Biology, the goal of this project is to develop a low-cost, field-portable DNA extraction device capable of on-chip plant cell lysing and DNA isolation from unprocessed plant tissues which overcomes the limitations of exiting laboratory DNA extraction protocols, and to apply this technology towards diagnosis of potato late blight.

The translation of photo thermal lysis mechanism into a field-portable plant lysis device and integration with isothermal DNA amplification and mobile readout platform is innovative because it will introduce a robust system for molecular diagnosis of emerging plant diseases that is fully standalone and deployable to the field settings in a manner not previously available. If successful, the integrated cell lysis, DNA amplification, and detection system will provide a novel approach to address a critically unmet need by offering an economically viable diagnostic strategy to support and enable rapid and real-time late blight diagnosis worldwide. In particular, potato blight has been recognized as one of the most “armed and dangerous” plant diseases imposing serious biological threats to global food security.

The disease prevention and management is however frequently complicated by different genotypes of P. infestans which display distinct fungicide sensitivity. This project can potentially lead to a field-deployable genotyping method of the first kind for P. infestans, thus having tremendous transformative potential on both plant pathology and global health communities. If successful, the PIs detection technology may prevent a substantial number of economic loses in agriculture and improve social wellbeing for better food security at both national and global scales. Drs. Wei and Ristaino are involved with NC State’s Emerging Plant Disease and Global Food Security Cluster. This project leverages institutional commitment through start-up funds supported by the Office of the Provost