Platform for Detecting Carcinogenic Compounds in Food

Platform for detecting Carcinogenic compounds in food

The study is for the detection of carcinogenic or mutagenic compound N-nitrosodimethylamine (NDMA) and N-nitrosodiethanolamine (NDEA) sometimes found in food items.

Platform for detecting Carcinogenic compounds in food

Source | Press Information Bureau


GS Paper III: Science and Technology – developments and their applications and effects in everyday life Achievements of Indians in science & technology; indigenization of technology and developing new technology.


Context: Institute of Advanced Study in Science and Technology (IASST), Guwahati, has developed an electrochemical sensing platform for detecting carcinogenic or mutagenic compounds found in food.

Platform for Detecting Carcinogenic Compounds in Food


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What you need to know about this platform for detection of carcinogenic compounds in food?

The study is for the detection of carcinogenic or mutagenic compound N-nitrosodimethylamine (NDMA) and N-nitrosodiethanolamine (NDEA) sometimes found in food items like cured meat, bacon, some cheese, and low-fat milk.

  • It was achieved by developing a modified electrode by immobilizing carbon nanomaterials (carbon dots) in DNA.
  • Most of the techniques used for detection of Nitrosamine have detection limits in μM. In this study published, the detection limit was determined to be 9.9×10−9 M and 9.6×10−9 M for NDMA and NDEA, respectively.

Working of the Platform

The electrochemical biosensor platform was developed using the ability of NDMA and NDEA, to alter the DNA. The Carbon dots (CDs), a carbon-based nanomaterial, was used, which is already established as a biocompatible and environmentally friendly material.

  • Naturally derived chitosan, (natural biopolymer obtained from the shells of shrimp, lobster, and crabs) is an environment-friendly sustainable material that was used to synthesize carbon dots.
  • As this is an electrochemical sensor, electrode was developed by depositing carbon dots (carbon nanoparticles) and then immobilizing bacterial DNA on them. This electrode system was used to measure the current peak.
  • Both NDMA and NDEA alters the chemical structure of DNA present in the electrode, making it more conducting, which ultimately results in the increased current peak.

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What is the need of such a Platform?

  • According to the scientists, with changing food habits of urban Indians, they are exposed to harmful chemicals belonging to Nitrosamine family in cured meats, bacon, some cheese, low-fat dry milk, and fish.
  • Such chemicals include carcinogenic ones like NDMA and NDEA, which may also alter the chemical composition of our DNA.
  • Hence it is important to develop detection techniques to detect them.


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PRELIMS Background Bites


DNA and Its Structure

Deoxyribonucleic acid, or DNA, is a molecule that contains the instructions an organism needs to develop, live and reproduce. These instructions are found inside every cell, and are passed down from parents to their children.

  • DNA is made up of molecules called nucleotides.
  • Each nucleotide contains a phosphate group, a sugar group and a nitrogen base.
  • The four types of nitrogen bases are adenine (A), thymine (T), guanine (G) and cytosine (C).
  • The order of these bases is what determines DNA’s instructions, or genetic code.
  • Human DNA has around 3 billion bases, and more than 99% of those bases are the same in all people.

DNA was first observed by a German biochemist named Frederich Miescher in 1869. It was not until 1953 that James Watson, Francis Crick, Maurice Wilkins and Rosalind Franklin figured out the structure of DNA — a double helix — which they realized could carry biological information.

Watson, Crick and Wilkins were awarded the Nobel Prize in Medicine in 1962 “for their discoveries concerning the molecular structure of nucleic acids and its significance for information transfer in living material.”


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