This case involves an herbal supplement manufacturer that was accused of including a banned substance in its products. The product was distributed in two primary retail drug stores. Within the first few weeks of the product’s release, the retailers received more than 50 complaints of side-effects. It was alleged that the side effects reported resembled those that would be experienced by consuming a particularly dangerous substance banned from use in such products. An expert in plant microbiology with experience testing finished herbal supplement products for the presence of plant DNA and lab facility access was sought to test the supplement in question.
Question(s) For Expert Witness
- 1. Please describe your experience in plant DNA testing.
- 2. Do you currently have access to a lab in which this type of testing could be conducted?
Expert Witness Response E-079584
I’ve had a 40-year academic career in plant cellular and molecular biology. I have published 180+ scholarly articles in this area and have several issued patents. I have published in the area of detection of DNA sequences in herbal medicine extracts. I have access to laboratory equipment to perform the proposed work. Testing for the presence of plant DNA in herbal supplements can be done using DNA amplification techniques followed by sequencing of the amplified products (if any). The sequence information should identify plant genes via bioinformatic analysis based on homologies to known sequences. Whether or not any other substances can be detected will depend on the chemical nature of the specific substances of interest.
Expert Witness Response E-079586
I have done a considerable amount of plant testing, including tests relating to intellectual property and the development of a DNA fingerprint. I have a Ph.D. in plant molecular biology and am very familiar with the field. My lab has sequenced 60+ different plant genomes. We could isolate the plant DNA by sequencing the supplement en masse and then figuring out which plants are most likely present. Plant DNA has chloroplast, which also has its own DNA, so an easier way of detecting plant DNA would be to sequence the DNA of the chloroplast.