WELLINGTON, Nov. 3 (Xinhua) -- Scientists at New Zealand's Cawthron Institute, an independent science organization, have explored the role of RNA in identifying living organisms when using metabarcoding for marine biosecurity applications, according to a study published on Friday.
Their results, published in the international journal PLOS ONE, discuss about molecular tools, which are an emerging technology on the science scene.
Scientists can use these tools to rapidly detect DNA and RNA in an environment, which means, with the help of an ever-growing database, they quickly know the organisms present, according to the study.
"By looking at DNA and RNA molecules together, it's possible to not only know the organisms present in an environment, but also by comparing the signals from two molecules we are now able to decipher which are dead and which are alive," Cawthron marine phylogeneticist Xavier Pochon said in a statement.
This knowledge is cutting-edge science and has the potential to greatly benefit marine bio-security, Pochon said.
The findings from this study suggest it is also possible to use molecular tools to "take the pulse" of detected organisms, he said, adding that this is because environmental samples with DNA-only traces may represent dead organisms, whereas detection of DNA/RNA combined or RNA-only traces are more likely to reveal the presence of living organisms.
"For example, it's important to understand the viability of marine organisms in the ballast waters of large vessels, because these can become invasive pests when released," said Pochon.
There are a couple of difficulties. Working with RNA is tricky as it degrades quickly and processing is relatively expensive, but the potential for technology in this space is growing as it gets cheaper and better, according to the study.