Making Damaged Genes Sparkle

Liquid lasers used to highlight mutated genes in new technology

(RxWiki News) Finding genetic alterations is one tedious undertaking. While it's becoming a less expensive proposition, genomic sequencing is still rigorous. New technology may change that and provide pictures in the meantime.

Researchers at the University of Michigan used a liquid laser to develop a better and more precise way of detecting slight genetic mutations that could increase a person's likelihood of developing cancer.

Such technology could be helpful in expanding the understanding of cancer behavior and could have applications in personalized medicine.

"Learn how personalized medicine could be used to treat your cancer."

Current technology uses fluorescent dye and other molecules to find and then bind to mutated DNA strands. When the so-called "patrol molecule" catches up to the rogues, a fluorescent light is emitted.  Problem is, the patrols often connect to healthy DNA and the difference in the light signals are hard to distinguish.

"Sometimes, we can fail to see the difference," said Xudong Fan, an associate professor in the Department of Biomedical Engineering and principal investigator on the project. "If you cannot see the difference in signals, you could misdiagnose. The patient may have the mutated gene, but you wouldn't detect it."

Fan's research team has developed a more sensitive technique using laser light emission to amplify and clarify the different signals, making the mutated genes shine hundreds of times brighter.

Emanuel F. Petricoin Ph.D. professor and co-director of the Center of Applied Proteomics and Molecular Medicine at George Mason University, told dailyRx, that "there could be more diagnostic uses of this type of technology, once it is validated, for pathogen detection, biosensors, etc."

Petricoin continues, "However, the ultimate use of this approach for personalized medicine is unclear as there are many developing technologies for rapid determination of DNA mutations. Moreover, since there are so many mutations in an single individual tumor and we don't know which are causal and which are passenger mutations- many people are turning their attention to the encoded proteins, which are the drug targets of the therapies used for personalized medicine, Petricoin said.

A paper reporting on this study was published in the February, 2012 edition of the German journal Angewandte Chemie.

The University of Michigan is pursuing patent protection for the intellectual property, and is seeking commercialization partners to help bring the technology to market.

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Review Date: 
February 10, 2012