June 3, 2021
As part of biomedical and chemical engineering Professor Dacheng Ren’s “Biological Principles for Bioengineers” class, students had the opportunity in their lab to simulate COVID-19 testing with a safe bacterial virus.
“Essentially for this experiment we are replicating the PCR testing that is going on with the COVID Pandemic right now,” says bioengineering student Lily Rhuda.
“We are working on viral detection so we are using polymer chain reaction and we are using a bacteriophage to mimic the coronavirus,” says bioengineering student Katie Southard. “So we are basically doing exactly what they are doing to test coronavirus samples.”
“Each virus has RNA in it. So we are trying to see if that RNA is present,” says bioengineering student Assul Larancuent. “We are doing that by polymerase chain reaction. We are repeating that process again and again to see if that virus is present.”
“We have run it through a spin column with a series of buffers to really isolate that material,” says Rhuda. “Then we use the centrifuge because that will bring all the buffer we don’t need out and leave the isolation we want.”
“The repetition creates a process that makes it an accurate result,” says Larancuent. “You sort of see all the work that is behind COVID testing.”
“It is really cool that we get the opportunity at Syracuse to do stuff like this,” said Southard. “It’s part of the reason why I choose this program at this school because I knew they would give me opportunities to do stuff like this with the latest technology.”
“It has been a life changing class,” says Larancuent. “You got to see the real world connections between bioengineering and the actual situation we are having right now.”
“This lab is a perfect opportunity to teach students advanced technologies related this ongoing pandemic,” said Ren. “Using a bacteriophage allows us to teach the principles and lab skills in a safe environment. I am proud that all groups successfully isolated RNA and conducted qPCR.”