The new approach includes two components: the use of mechanical devices to spread and flatten the cells, and the application of computer-based image processing to analyze hundreds of examples of the same chromosomes. With so many crisp images to analyze, computer algorithms can accurately calculate the number, shape and location of the chromosome bands.
"Two researchers might see the same image differently," said graduate research assistant Mert Dikmen, who uses computer vision technologies under the supervision of Beckman Institute professor Thomas Huang to analyze the images. "Our system will give an impartial estimate of the band location. It will not be researcher-dependent. It will be objective."
To improve chromosome spreading, researchers use a rotary tool that vibrates the coverslip surface for several minutes. A simple mechanical vise applies up to two tons of force to each slide, rendering the preparations very thin and high in contrast. This allows the production of much clearer, information-packed images.
The technique has other advantages: Because it relies on light microscopy, it is faster and more economical than electron microscopy, with comparable or superior results.
With a more accurate chromosome map, researchers will next use fluorescent immunostaining of proteins that bind to specific DNA sequences. These landmarks will help them tease out the relationship of the sequence to the physical structure.
The new approach will allow scientists to answer fundamental questions about chromosome structure, Novikov said. Such questions have relev
Source:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign