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Solution Preserves Nucleic Acids in Body-Fluid Specimens

Specimens can be stored and transported at room temperature.

A solution has been formulated to preserve deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) and ribonucleic acid (RNA) in specimens of blood, saliva, and other bodily fluids. Specimens of this type are collected for diagnostic molecular pathology, which is becoming the method of choice for diagnosis of many diseases. The solution makes it possible to store such specimens at room temperature, without risk of decomposition, for subsequent analysis in a laboratory that could be remote from the sampling location. Thus, the solution could be a means to bring the benefits of diagnostic molecular pathology to geographic regions where refrigeration equipment and diagnostic laboratories are not available.

The table lists the ingredients of the solution. The functions of the ingredients are the following:

  • EDTA chelates divalent cations that are necessary cofactors for nuclease activity. In so doing, it functionally removes these cations and thereby retards the action of nucleases. EDTA also stabilizes the DNA helix.
  • Tris serves as a buffering agent, which is needed because minor contaminants in an unbuffered solution can exert pronounced effects on pH and thereby cause spontaneous degradation of DNA.
  • SDS is an ionic detergent that inhibits ribonuclease activity. SDS has been used in some lysis buffers and as a storage buffer for RNA after purification.

ImageThe use of the solution is straightforward. For example, a sample of saliva is collected by placing a cotton roll around in the subject's mouth until it becomes saturated, then the cotton is placed in a collection tube. Next, 1.5 mL of the solution are injected directly into the cotton and the tube is capped for storage at room temperature. The effectiveness of the solution has been demonstrated in tests on specimens of saliva containing herpes simplex virus. In the tests, the viral DNA, as amplified by polymerase chain reaction, was detected even after storage for 120 days.


This work was done by Duane L.Pierson of Johnson Space Center and Raymond P. Stowe. For further information, contact the Johnson Commercial Technology Office at (281) 483-3809. MSC-22891