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Study: 'homemade' gene expression technology unreliable

Technology for analyzing gene expression must be standardized among laboratories and across platforms around the world to support this age of human genome exploration, an Oregon Health & Science University researcher says.

Otherwise, scientists using DNA microarrays, also known as gene chips, risk having their research results called into question, said Peter Spencer, Ph.D., professor of neurology in the OHSU School of Medicine.

Spencer, director of the OHSU Center for Research on Occupational and Environmental Toxicology, co-authored with several OHSU colleagues one of three articles about microarrays appearing this month in the journal Nature Methods. They show that geographically separated multi-investigator teams adopting common commercial, rather than homemade, microarray platforms and common sets of procedures are able to generate comparable data.

"The important point of the three papers is that with contemporary microarray platforms, we have a relatively reliable method with which to assess gene expression, we can do so reproducibly within an individual laboratory, and we can be confident that a similar result would be obtained if the experiment is repeated elsewhere," Spencer said.

Gene chips contain tens of thousands of tiny droplets containing a cell's whole gene sequences that are laid out on a single microscope slide by fast-moving robotic machines. Scientists determine how the expression of individual genes is turned up or down by placing copies of DNA or RNA molecules labeled with fluorescent dyes on the slide, and examining whether the molecules that bind to a particular gene light up when viewed with a special scanner.

By interrogating thousands of genes at once, scientists can quickly pinpoint genes affected by drugs being tested to treat heart disease, mental illness, infectious diseases and cancer. In the past, researchers were only able to analyze a few genes at once, and they were often uncertain whethe
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Source:Oregon Health & Science University


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