Have Lab, Will Travel Part 2: Magnetic Filtration a Key Portable Lab Function
Magnetic filter funnels enable detection of low concentrations of DNA in unpredictable field environments
May 6, 2021
In Part 1 of Have Lab, Will Travel, we discussed the ongoing need for rapid and efficient on-site sample analysis and introduced one lab’s solution-a compact suite of portable filtration and detection devices. 
Briefly, the researchers’ strategy to bring DNA screening capabilities to remote field sites consisted of assembling a toolkit of goal-critical technological components in an efficient and effective portable format.
The functionality of the “Suitcase Lab” was field-tested under controlled conditions in the ocean waters at Takehara Port, just off the Japanese coast to study harmful algal blooms (HAB). Once the components had been shown to perform satisfactorily, a pilot study was carried out at four remote locations off the Chilean coast.
In the pilot study, seawater samples were processed through a Pall Sentino® magnetic filter funnel used in combination with the Sentino microbiology pump. The researchers used a 500 mL, 47 mm funnel fitted with a 0.2 μm filter for this purpose. While the 500 mL size is ideal for large sample filtration, Pall’s magnetic filter funnels are also available in 150 mL and 300 mL volume formats to accommodate a range of quality and research applications.
Pall’s Magnetic filter funnels are particularly useful for fieldwork since they allow for leak-free, one-handed operation in an unpredictable environment. In addition, they are safe to use, offering an advantage over traditional glass funnels: they are made of a sturdy, polyphenylsulfone plastic construction that is shatterproof and compatible with a broad range of chemicals. In this study, the use of the 0.2 μm filter enabled greater sensitivity than the mesh filter used for the mock study. This alternate workflow was designed to permit the detection of low concentrations of environmental DNA.
After processing the seawater samples and analyzing them using loop-mediated isothermal amplification (LAMP) technology, the team were able to successfully detect DNA from their target species within 2 hours post-collection! This is a remarkable improvement over workflows that are currently in place. Even using the fastest travel routes, current HAB monitoring technologies require several days before collected field samples can be brought to a laboratory for identification, and there is always a risk that inadequately protected samples will deteriorate during that time.
The more quickly HABs can be confirmed, the higher the likelihood that environmental harm to coastal communities can be contained or mitigated. The “Suitcase Lab” approach abrogates the need for a cold chain, while providing rapid, cost-effective sample analysis. Furthermore, the concept of a portable lab is an increasingly attractive option for field research in remote locations. Similar strategies have been used in regions of Africa to track Ebola outbreaks and in Brazil to track outbreaks of Zika virus. The use of such an effective portable toolkit will no doubt significantly benefit environmental research.
At Pall, we are proud to support this research and to be part of the solution. Learn more about smart solutions for environmental microbiology.
Fujiyoshi S et al. Suitcase Lab: new, portable, and deployable equipment for rapid detection of specific harmful algae in Chilean coastal waters. Environ Sci Pollut Res Int.1–12. Nov 2020.
Image credit: Image of Sentino Pump in use in the field reproduced by permission of Springer Nature and Dr So Fujiyoshi under the Creative Commons Licence.