SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 24, 2016

New DNA mutation detection method could lead to treatments for cancer, TB

A new method that can pinpoint the detection of a single DNA mutation could help researchers diagnose and treat diseases like tuberculosis and cancer, according to a study published on Sunday in Nature Chemistry.

Researchers with the University of Washington and Rice University designed probes that can pick out mutations in a single base pair in a certain stretch of DNA. While current methods allow for the detection of mutations in a stretch of 20 base pairs, the new method lets researchers look for variations in sequences of up to 200 base pairs.

"We've really improved on previous approaches because our solution doesn't require any complicated reactions or added enzymes, it just uses DNA," Georg Seelig, the lead author of the study, said. "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."

Genomics researchers make it clear that even the change of one base pair can result in the onset of disease or the resistance to antibiotic treatment. A small number of mutations in a specific gene in tuberculosis, for instance, can lead to drug-resistant strains. The new detection method gives researchers the ability to preventatively check for such mutations.

The probes are meant to bind with a sequence of DNA suspected to have a mutation. A probe is designed to glow if there is a perfect match between it and the target. If the probe does not glow, it means the strands did not match and there was a mutation in the target DNA strand.

The researchers are looking to integrate the new method into a paper-based diagnostic test for diseases that could be used in the developing world.