Kansas State Boldly Goes in New Direction

Dr. Raymond Rowland and his Kansas State research team are collaborating with Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory to improve diagnostic tools for infectious diseases.

Imagine a single test that checks for 8,000 different microbes.

It’s not a far-fetched idea. The test is being used at the Kansas State University College of Veterinary Medicine, where Professor Raymond Rowland, MS, Ph.D., is experimenting with what he calls “Star Trek technology.”

The Microbial Detection Array, an invention of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in Livermore, Calif., is designed to check samples of blood, dirt, tissue, and nasal or saliva swabs for viruses, bacteria and fungi. The test could be used in animal health, public health, vaccine safety, food safety and biodefense.

Rowland, a researcher of porcine diseases, is teaming up with veterinary students to improve the test and other infectious disease diagnostic tools.

“The idea is to take some of this Star Trek technology and bring it to diagnostic laboratories and the clinical practice level,” said Rowland, a professor of diagnostic medicine and pathobiology.

“We want to figure out how to apply this test and make it useful for the veterinarian, the livestock producer or the clinician.”

Assisting Rowland are second-year veterinary students Rebecca Ober and Jamie Thompson, who also are studying for a Ph.D. in biomedical science. Ober and Thompson spent the summer at Lawrence Livermore to improve their research skills and learn more about the technology, the university reported this week.

The Microbial Detection Array, or “everything test,” is designed to look at endemic diseases, emerging diseases and diseases not present in the United States.

“Traditional thinking uses three separate tests for all of these diseases,” Rowland said. “But the microarray integrates everything and can test for all three types of diseases at once. It’s not only an integration into one test, it’s an integration of thinking.”

During their work at Lawrence Livermore, Ober and Thompson performed DNA and RNA amplification, purification and labeling using samples from diverse species such as dolphin, woodchuck, mink and pig.

“I think it definitely helped us learn how to interact with other scientists,” Ober said. “We were required to learn fast, think fast and deliver.”

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