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The team reports that the technique is ultra-sensitive. It can detect minute traces of tumoral DNA from microscopic droplets of biological fluids collected from cancer patients. If proven effective, soon we will have a very powerful diagnostic tool to detect cancer.
They claim that the technique was already successful on detecting genes linked to colon cancers and leukemia. The next move is likely a clinical study to test its sensitivity and efficacy in cancer detection.
They explain that in theory the contents of a tumoral cell are released into the extracellular environment as the tumoral cells die. Thus, there is a high possibility of detecting DNA in biological fluids such as blood, lymph, and urine. An ultra-sensitive test to detect DNA could therefore prove useful in this regard. They claim that with this technique a DNA is capable of detecting small amounts of DNA in these samples that no other current DNA analysis methods can.
Perhaps the most important breakthrough in case the technique becomes available is the detection of cancer at a very early stage. It has the capacity to detect "cancer as soon as the first cancerous cells die".1
The initial step is to distribute the extracted DNA from biological sample into millions of droplets at a size so small that each could contain only a single target gene. Next, the DNA is amplified through molecular multiplication methods while fluorescent molecules specific to every gene interacts with the DNA. Then, the droplets are guided one at a time into the microscopic grooves for the subsequent laser analysis. Accordingly, a droplet that emits red fluorescence the DNA contained is healthy whereas a green color indicates that the DNA is tumoral. If no fluorescence is emitted it means the targeted gene is not present in the droplet.
1 The story is edited by Vicki Mozo from a press release of CNRS (Délégation Paris Michel-Ange): Droplets for Detecting Tumoral DNA
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