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Medicine Biotech

Breakthrough In Detecting DNA Mutations Could Help Treat Cancer, TB 42

vinces99 writes "Researchers have developed a new method that can look at a specific segment of DNA and pinpoint a single mutation, which could help diagnose and treat diseases such as cancer and tuberculosis. These small changes can be the root of a disease or the reason some infectious diseases resist certain antibiotics. The findings were published online July 28 in the journal Nature Chemistry. 'We've really improved on previous approaches because our solution doesn't require any complicated reactions or added enzymes, it just uses DNA,' said lead author Georg Seelig, a University of Washington assistant professor of electrical engineering and of computer science and engineering. 'This means that the method is robust to changes in temperature and other environmental variables, making it well-suited for diagnostic applications in low-resource settings.' The researchers designed probes that can pick out mutations in a single base pair in a target stretch of DNA. The probes allow researchers to look in much more detail for variations in long sequences up to 200 base pairs while current methods can detect mutations in stretches of up to only 20."
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Breakthrough In Detecting DNA Mutations Could Help Treat Cancer, TB

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  • Patents? (Score:4, Informative)

    by delt0r ( 999393 ) on Monday July 29, 2013 @11:49AM (#44412965)
    Is it patented? And as someone who is working in the field. Most diseases, even inherited ones, are not due to single mutations...
  • Re:Patent (Score:3, Informative)

    by Antipater ( 2053064 ) on Monday July 29, 2013 @11:58AM (#44413035)
    Given that "...our solution doesn't require any complicated reactions or added enzymes, it just uses DNA," it should be unpatentable thanks to the recent Supreme Court decision [wikipedia.org].
  • Re:Patent (Score:3, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 29, 2013 @12:20PM (#44413275)

    That decision prevented naturally-occurring gene sequences from being patented. The "just uses DNA" solution from TFA uses DNA that has been engineered to "emit a fluorescent glow."

    Being entirely non-natural, it would be eligible for patent protection.

  • Re:WTF? (Score:5, Informative)

    by Cyberax ( 705495 ) on Monday July 29, 2013 @01:17PM (#44414109)
    I'm reading the paper - they found a clever way to make sure that DNA doesn't hybridize across the SNP. That ensures that in an equilibrium solution it'll be present at much smaller concentration than a fully-hybridized DNA. That is really a neat trick, but hardly a groundbreaking achievement that will revolutionize everything.
  • by pepty ( 1976012 ) on Monday July 29, 2013 @03:17PM (#44415647)

    There's no genes to patent here, only a technique for identifying differences between strands of DNA and an artificially-created reference strand that's engineered to glow fluorescently.

    Think of it as an efficient diff method for DNA that doesn't involve computationally-complex gene sequencing.


    The probe is engineered to emit a fluorescent glow if there’s a perfect match between it and the target. If it doesn’t illuminate, that means the strands didn’t match and there was in fact a mutation in the target strand of DNA..

    So the technique will be limited to a single probe in each reaction. This could be great when all you want to check for is the presence of one or two specific mutations, but in most situations there are many different mutations that could be causing the same effect. You would have to run dozens of tests using this method to get that information. I don't see this as displacing methods that use arrays of DNA probes attached to chips: those let you check for hundreds of mutations or hundreds of species of pathogens all at the same time, but it might improve array techniques if these probes still work well when placed on arrays.

Time to take stock. Go home with some office supplies.