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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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  • by i kan reed ( 749298 ) on Monday July 29, 2013 @11:25AM (#44412709) Homepage Journal

    When reached for comment, Magneto promised that this would spell inevitable war between mutants and humans.

  • So how long will this be under the patent lock and key before anyone can benefit from it?

    Also, is the University of Washington the only university doing any research anymore? Or do they just have really good PR? Every time I see one of these stories lately, the University of Washington is involved
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Antipater ( 2053064 )
      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: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        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.

  • 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...
    • My takeaway from this means that they can isolate each of the responsible mutations. This is a tenfold increase in precision, is it not?

      • by delt0r ( 999393 )
        In precision no. We can do that right now. But its not that cheap yet. Perhaps this is cheaper. However for most inherited disease there is no identifiable mutations. So this is still only a niche detection tool for typically quite rare diseases.
  • But I certainly need help for athletes foot.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    The link points to a university press release, I would therefore not put too much on the claim. The text in the press release is so inflated with flowery prose the subject matter looses credibility. Since the original paper is behind a pay wall most of us will never know if it was a 'breakthrough' or not. Plus I see it will be patented but the research was paid for by public funds!

  • This may becomes BRCA1 & BRCA2 case in the future if they can "patent" these genes... I hope they fail miserably on getting a patent if what they called "technology" is actually "genes"! Below is from TFA...

    The researchers have filed a patent on the technology and are working with the UW Center for Commercialization. They hope to integrate it into a paper-based diagnostic test for diseases that could be used in parts of the world with few medical resources.

    • by Qzukk ( 229616 )

      Really, it comes down to what they do with the patent once they have it. They could charge a penny for it as a token licensing fee. Or they could demand 50% of all the revenue of anyone using it which would make sure it never sees use in the "parts of the world with few medical resources" (except for those nations that routinely ignore patents).

  • How do you treat a terabyte?

  • The article blurb is a total POS. We can detect single nucleotide polymorphisms easily, using any sequencing technology or genotyping systems. I don't even see anything novel in the article, because scientists used similar technologies for AGES.
    • by Hatta ( 162192 )

      Sequencing involves in vitro DNA synthesis. It sounds to me like they are doing nothing more than solution hybridization. e.g. denature your sample, apply it to membrane with a probe on it, and let the strands anneal to the probe. Then they get a fluorescent signal if the strands anneal properly.

      My question is how they get the hybridization so specific that a single base pair difference will cause a measurable difference in hybridization. If it's as easy as they make it sound, they do this without highl

      • 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 Ubi_NL ( 313657 )

          Indeed. Affymetrix used this 20 years go and pretty much stopped using it because it was unreliable...

        • That ensures that in an equilibrium solution it'll be present at much smaller concentration than a fully-hybridized DNA

          That's actually one part of the new technique that is a problem -- it's a solution-based reaction. They may or may not be able to tether it to a solid substrate and still have it work (which would be a requirement for implementation in a practical DNA micro-array). I don't have access to the full paper at this moment, so I don't know if the issue was addressed or not.

    • Typically, hybridization probes rely on match/mismatch similarities between one target strand, and the probe strand; when the difference is a single base pair, your signal/noise ratio can be pretty poor. But while performance is typically poorer than PCR-based assays, they can be faster and easier to run, requiring less sophisticated equipment.

      This new technique uses a mechanism that simultaneously evaluates both strands of the target at once (by passing through a cross-shaped intermediate complex). Basic

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Sounds like they have reinvented "Molecular Beacons" ....

    I somehow knew this before reading the article. Yay PhD!

  • breakthrough # 2,343,345,448. take that, cancer!
  • The testing probes are designed to bind with a sequence of DNA that is suspected of having a mutation.... The probe is engineered to emit a fluorescent glow if there’s a perfect match between it and the target.

    So it's a highly specific FISH [wikipedia.org]? Or maybe something similar to SOLiD's NGS sequencing process?

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