IISc scientist’s ‘edible stain’ all set to revolutionize research practices

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A newly discovered stain is all set to revolutionize research practices. J Fathima Benazir of the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) claims that Tinto Rang, a stain that she developed, is safe even on consumption.

Staining is an auxiliary technique used in microscopy to enhance contrast in a microscopic image. Stains and dyes are frequently used in biology and medicine to highlight structures in biological tissues for viewing, often with the aid of different microscopes. Carcinogenic and toxic nucleic acid stains are in use since long, notwithstanding concerns over the effects of exposure to these stains.

Benazir, who developed this new stain during her doctoral and postdoctoral research at IISc, had earlier launched her firm Azooka Life Sciences. The firm is supported by the institute’s Society for Innovation and Development.

Azooka has also filed a patent—which is yet to be granted—for a stain called Tinto Rang. This stain is believed to be safe even on consumption as it is developed using edible plants found in southern India. However, Benazir refused to name the plant considering the pending patent.

“The focus of Azooka is to develop safe DNA/RNA fluorescent stains for applications in biological sciences and genomics and Tinto Rang is safe even on consumption as it is a food additive making it the safest option currently available in the world,” TOI quoted Benazir.

“The basic requirement of stains was that the nucleic acid dye has to be fast, sensitive and selective to the nucleic acid so that it can be used in various applications to detect minute quantity of nucleic acids in a biological sample,” she added.

Explaining to TOI how Tinto Rang is better than most stains, she said that the most commonly and widely used stain (ethidium bromide nucleic acid stain) is a potent carcinogenic, mutagenic biohazard and scientists in a lab deal with carcinogenic and mutagenic stains all the time to run DNA tests.

“These stains often alter the structure of the DNA because the interactions with the DNA are very strong. We always felt there was a need for an alternative to the carcinogenic and mutagenic stains available in the market,” Prof H S Savithri from the department of Biochemistry at IISc told TOI.

Benazir also said that ethidium bromide requires at least 10 to 40 minutes to obtain results or visualise DNA, but Tinto Rang stains the DNA within a few seconds or at best a minute.

Tinto Rang allows the recovery of the DNA for multiple tests after visualization as the DNA won’t be distorted.

Tinto Rang nucleic acid gel stains can be used for DNA and RNA visualization, molecular diagnosis and in vivo imaging applications. It is not photosensitive unlike ethidium bromide and does not require incubation in the dark.

The production and easy availability of a safe nucleic acid stain in India will directly impact the cost of molecular diagnostics by eliminating import and excise duties.

Tinto means crimson red in the Portuguese language, and the stain is coloured crimson red.


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