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Patent Awarded for DNA Tags on Synthetic Fibers

DNA analysis graphic

(Gerd Altmann, Pixabay)

27 Jan 2020. A company creating tags similar to bar codes from nucleic acids like DNA received a patent for a process to identify and track synthetic fibers made from wood. Patent number 10,519,605 was awarded by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office on 31 December 2019 to three inventors, and assigned to Applied DNA Sciences Inc. in Stony Brook, New York.

Applied DNA Sciences develops industrial uses for nucleic acids such as DNA, with much of the company’s work devoted to authentication and tracking applications. The company’s supply chain technology, called CertainT, assigns a unique identifier embodied in DNA-style nucleic acids that are attached chemically to materials or goods, like bar codes on retail products or parts on a factory floor, and tracked through their life-cycles or supply chains.

The CertainT technology is used to ascertain origin, maintain integrity, and determine authenticity of materials and goods. The company also provides detection systems to read DNA bar codes on the spot, with more comprehensive assessment and verification services offered in its forensic lab. DNA bar codes can be tracked through a product’s supply chain, and matched to data in Applied DNA Sciences databases to verify authenticity or chain of custody with geographic location, date-time stamps, and a company’s own serial numbers.

The new patent discusses a process for applying DNA bar codes to identify and track synthetic fibers derived from fibrous plant tissue, called man-made cellulosic or MMC fibers in the industry. Rayon is probably the best known MMC fiber, joined by more recent offshoots such as lyocell and modal materials. Applied DNA Sciences cites industry data showing by 2018, MMC fiber production more than doubled since 1990, and is expected to grow at a rate of 9 percent a year through 2024. Yet, customers are demanding that MMC fibers, usually derived from wood, are not made from old growth forests or with unsustainable methods, thus the need for close supply-chain and life-cycle tracking of these goods.

MeiLin Wan, vice president for textile sales at Applied DNA, says in a company statement that a number of brand-name retailers set corporate goals to “only use MMC fibers from certified, responsibly-managed sources in its products by 2025,” and “are actively strengthening their sourcing policies to address these concerns. Central to their initiatives is traceability of their MMC supply chains to feedstock levels.”

The patent document describes techniques for marking MMC fibers during their production. These methods outline a way for adding nucleic acid identifiers in a factory’s wood pulp and chemicals for producing the fibers, which protects the identifiers while keeping them readable by detection equipment. The patent also highlights authentication techniques where the DNA-tagged material is dissolved in a solution, allowing for polymerase chain reaction tests, a common DNA analysis method.

Polymerase chain reaction or PCR tests, until recently, required complex lab-based equipment, but advances in the technology now allow for portable devices to perform PCR testing. PCR amplifies segments of DNA, by making many copies of the target DNA segments allowing for subsequent detection and identification. As reported in Science & Enterprise in February 2018, a lab at Washington State University developed a portable PCR device, which when attached to a laptop, detects destructive microbes in farm soil.

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