We've already heard about an experimental technique for detecting counterfeit olive oil, that involves adding synthetic DNA to the genuine product. Now, German scientists are exploring the possibility of using added tomato DNA to keep bogus breast implants off the market.

Many readers doubtless recall the scandal involving Poly Implant Protheses, a French company that manufactured breast implants which were discovered to contain a cheap third-party industrial-grade silicone gel. As compared to the more expensive medical-grade silicone which should have been used, it contained a higher number of contaminants. These compounds would cause more health problems in the event that the implant ruptured, and the gel leaked out into the recipient's body.

According to scientists at Germany's Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Polymer Research, such fraud is very difficult to detect. To that end, a team led by Dr. Joachim Storsberg turned to the humble tomato plant. The researchers isolated genomic DNA (gDNA) from tomato leaves, and then embedded it in a silicone matrix from which they made breast implants.

Even after that silicone was vulcanized for five hours at a temperature of 150 ºC (302 ºF) the DNA remained stable, and was detectable utilizing a DNA-amplifying technique known as polymerase chain reaction (PCR).

It is now hoped that producers of medical-grade silicone could use the technology to mark the authenticity of their product. When inspections were being performed on batches of implants that were claimed to contain that silicone, PCR could be used to ascertain the specific type and concentration of tomato DNA present in the material.

If those readings didn't match up with the data that was recorded when the silicone was produced and certified, then inspectors would know that the implant either contained a completely different product, or that the genuine medical-grade silicone had been mixed with something cheaper and less biocompatible.

"The use of tomato DNA turned out to be excellent for this application," Storsberg tells us. "It can be easily obtained, and it is stable in the crosslinking process of the components during manufacturing."

Source: Fraunhofer