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Genes linked to cancer could be easier to detect with liquid lasers
Date:1/31/2012

ANN ARBOR, Mich.Using a liquid laser, University of Michigan researchers have developed a better way to detect the slight genetic mutations that might predispose a person to a particular type of cancer or other diseases.

Their results are published in the current edition of the German journal Angewandte Chemie.

This work could advance understanding of the genetic basis of diseases. It also has applications in personalized medicine, which aims to target drugs and other therapies to individual patients based on a thorough knowledge of their genetic information.

The researchers say their technique works much better than the current approach, which uses fluorescent dye and other biological molecules to find and bind to mutated DNA strands. When a patrol molecule catches one of these rogues, it emits a fluorescent beacon. This might sound like a solid system, but it's not perfect. The patrol molecules tend to bind to healthy DNA as well, giving off a background glow that is only slightly dimmer than a positive signal.

"Sometimes, we can fail to see the difference," said Xudong Fan, an associate professor in the Department of Biomedical Engineering and principal investigator on the project. "If you cannot see the difference in signals, you could misdiagnose. The patient may have the mutated gene, but you wouldn't detect it."

In the conventional fluorescence technique, the signal from mutated DNA might be only a few tenths of a percent higher than the background noise. With Fan's new approach it's hundreds of times brighter.

"We found a clever way to amplify the intrinsic difference in the signals," Fan said.

He did it with a bit of backtracking.

Liquid lasers, discovered in the late '60s, amplify light by passing it through a dye, rather than a crystal, as solid-state lasers do. Fan, who works at the intersection of biomedical engineering and photonics, has been developing them
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Contact: Nicole Casal Moore
ncmoore@umich.edu
734-647-7087
University of Michigan
Source:Eurekalert  

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