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DNA barcoding: at the forefront of complete authenticity

The quality of herbal medicinal preparations has an intimate relationship with the origin and quality of the herbal starting materials used to produce these preparations. While it is true that most herbal starting materials can be unequivocally identified through traditional macroscopic and microscopic identification techniques combined with chemical analysis, in some instances it is necessary to resort to DNA-based techniques.

These techniques can complement the botanical, chemotaxonomic and metabolomic analytical methods that are typically used for identification. The development of DNA-based techniques is ongoing, however it still faces many challenges. Whilst we have a deep knowledge of animals and their DNA, the same cannot be said for plants. Plants have three distinct genomes contained intheir nucleus, chloroplasts and mitochondria. There is no international agreement on the most appropriate part of the genome that should be used for DNA-based identification. The genome of plants can vary significantly in size due to polyploidy. There is currently no globally recognised database of authenticated DNA reference sequences for plants. And finally, there is no single DNA-based analytical tool that is suitable in all instances.

Because of these factors a deep knowledge of plant genetics is fundamental, and this knowledge is part of Indena’s very own DNA. Indena’s expertise in DNA barcoding makes use of the whole array of DNA-based identification technologies, including DNA fingerprinting, PCR based tools and Next Generation Sequencing.

Indena has recently developed a novel approach to undertaking the genetic identification of herbal materials utilising state of the art technology incorporating unique sets of reagents for specific DNA sequences combined with a miniaturised, state-of-the-art portable device for the analysis of nucleic acids. This device allows users, although unskilled, to perform full genetic analysis of herbal materials in the field. It incorporates all the necessary hardware, software and reagents and can be used as a fully portable testing laboratory to provide highly accurate results, reducing the time associated with traditional methods.

Botanical adulteration, intentional and accidental, continues to be a topic of great interest to the general public, industry and the scientific community. DNA-based identification techniques can play an important role in helping to minimise the risk of adulterated product reaching the end consumer.

Indena has a long history of developing active principles from plants for the pharmaceutical industry and follows the same rigorous scientific approach from research and development through to quality control when developing herbal medicinal preparations for use in complementary medicines. Safe and effective herbal medicinal preparations are fundamentally dependent on the identity, consistency and purity of the herbal starting materials used to produce these preparations.

Indena has established a range of validated species specific DNA-based identification techniques for herbal starting materials used in the herbal medicinal preparations it produces.

  • Complete authenticity involves the use of a range of analytical techniques to unequivocally identify herbal starting materials.
  • DNA barcoding techniques are not considered reference methods by regulatory authorities or pharmacopoeias.
  • DNA barcoding should be considered a useful adjunct to existing analytical methodologies, but it should not be used in isolation.

More information on this crucially important and fascinating topic can be found at: www.indena.com/quality/dna-barcoding/

Pathway International is the exclusive distributor for Indena in Australia.

For more information please contact us on:
Phone: 02 9984 2700
E-mail: sales@pathway.net.au
Website: www.pathway.net.au