Single-stranded fragments of deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) and ribonucleic acid (RNA) are called DNA probes and RNA probes respectively. These DNA and RNA probes are short in length (usually 100-1000 bases long) capable of forming highly specific, non-covalent duplexes with complementary sequence of nucleic acid strand. Therefore, typical applications of these probes are in fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH), microarray-based gene expression profiling or electrophoretic mobility shift assays (EMSA).
These DNA and RNA genetic probes have three important applications from a medical perspective: detection of specific nucleic acid sequences, detection of changes in nucleic acid sequences(mutation) and detection of tandem repeat sequences (30-50 base pairs). These probes are designed to detect and identify various infectious agents such as bacteria, protozoa and viruses. Detection of genetic mutation using DNA and RNA probe is also of diagnostic importance in hereditary diseases such as cystic fibrosis, muscular dystrophy, phenylketonuria and sickle cell anemia. The detection of tandem repeat sequences is of vital use in forensic science and paternity testing.
DNA or RNA probes are categorized either as radioactive probes or as non-radioactive probes based on the nature of material used for labelling. Radioactive probes most commonly involve enzymatic incorporation of 32P, 33P, or 35S. Non-radioactive probesinvolve attaching the probe either to an enzyme (alkaline phosphatase or horseradish peroxidase), an antibody directed against an enzyme, fluorophore, or to an achemifluorescent substrate. Alternatively, these probes can be labeled with biotin, making it detectable by a streptavidin and avidin enzyme conjugate.
Some of the major players in the global DNA and RNA probes market are Amersham Life Sciences, Inc., Clontech Laboratories, Inc., Epicentre Technologies, FMC Corporation, GE Healthcare, Genosys Biotechnologies, Inc., IBA GmbH, IDEXX Laboratories, Inc., Kamiya Biomedical Co., Oncor, Inc., Operon, Inc., Sigma-Aldrich Co. LLC., Signet Laboratories, Inc., and Vysis, Inc.
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