Corporate Banner
Satellite Banner
Scientific Community
Become a Member | Sign in
Home>News>This Article

Breakthrough in Detecting DNA Mutations Could Help Treat Tuberculosis and Cancer

Published: Tuesday, July 30, 2013
Last Updated: Tuesday, July 30, 2013
Bookmark and Share
The slightest variation in a sequence of DNA can have profound effects.

Modern genomics has shown that just one mutation can be the difference between successfully treating a disease and having it spread rampantly throughout the body.

Now, researchers have developed a new method that can look at a specific segment of DNA and pinpoint a single mutation, which could help diagnose and treat diseases such as cancer and tuberculosis. These small changes can be the root of a disease or the reason some infectious diseases resist certain antibiotics. The findings were published online this week (July 28) in the journal Nature Chemistry.

“We’ve really improved on previous approaches because our solution doesn’t require any complicated reactions or added enzymes, it just uses DNA,” said lead author Georg Seelig, a University of Washington assistant professor of electrical engineering and of computer science and engineering. “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.”

DNA is a type of nucleic acid, the biological molecule that gives all living things their unique genetic signatures. In a double strand of DNA, known as a double helix, a series of base pairs bond and encode our genetic information. As genomics research has progressed, it’s clear that a change of just one base pair – a sequence mutation, an insertion or a deletion – is enough to trigger major biological consequences. This could explain the onset of disease, or the reason some diseases don’t respond to usual antibiotic treatment.

Take, for example, tuberculosis – a disease that’s known to have drug-resistant strains. Its resistance to antibiotics often is due to a small number of mutations in a specific gene. If a person with tuberculosis isn’t responding to treatment, it’s likely because there is a mutation, Seelig said.

Now, researchers have the ability to check for that mutation preventatively.

Seelig, along with David Zhang of Rice University and Sherry Chen, a UW doctoral student in electrical engineering, designed probes that can pick out mutations in a single base pair in a target stretch of DNA. The probes allow researchers to look in much more detail for variations in long sequences – up to 200 base pairs – while current methods can detect mutations in stretches of up to only 20.

“In terms of specificity, our research suggests that we can do quadratically better, meaning that whatever the best level of specificity, our best will be that number squared,” said  Zhang, an assistant professor of bioengineering at Rice University.

The testing probes are designed to bind with a sequence of DNA that is suspected of having a mutation. The researchers do this by creating a complimentary sequence of DNA to the double-helix strand in question. Then, they allow molecules containing both sequences to mix in a test tube in salt water, where they naturally will match up to one another if the base pairs are intact. Unlike previous technologies, the probe molecule checks both strands of the target double helix for mutations rather than just one, which explains the increased specificity.

The probe is engineered to emit a fluorescent glow if there’s a perfect match between it and the target. If it doesn’t illuminate, that means the strands didn’t match and there was in fact a mutation in the target strand of DNA.

The researchers have filed a patent on the technology and are working with the UW Center for Commercialization. They hope to integrate it into a paper-based diagnostic test for diseases that could be used in parts of the world with few medical resources.

Further Information
Access to this exclusive content is for Technology Networks Premium members only.

Join Technology Networks Premium for free access to:

  • Exclusive articles
  • Presentations from international conferences
  • Over 2,800+ scientific posters on ePosters
  • More than 4,000+ scientific videos on LabTube
  • 35 community eNewsletters

Sign In

Forgotten your details? Click Here
If you are not a member you can join here

*Please note: By logging into you agree to accept the use of cookies. To find out more about the cookies we use and how to delete them, see our privacy policy.

Related Content

$12-Million Awarded to Study the Human Genome in 4-D
Project seeks to understand how a 6.5 feet of DNA folds to fit inside a cell.
Tuesday, October 20, 2015
Editing Genes to Create HIV Killers
Seattle scientists have managed to genetically transform human cells in the lab from HIV targets to HIV killers, and the technique could have implications for cancer and other diseases.
Monday, October 05, 2015
A New Single-Molecule Tool to Observe Enzymes at Work
A team of scientists at the University of Washington and the biotechnology company Illumina have created an innovative tool to directly detect the delicate, single-molecule interactions between DNA and enzymatic proteins.
Wednesday, September 30, 2015
Genetic Errors Linked To Aging Underlie Leukemia That Develops After Cancer Treatment
New research by Daniel Link, MD, and colleagues at The Genome Institute at Washington University has revealed that mutations that accumulate randomly as a person ages can play a role in a fatal form of leukemia that develops after treatment for another cancer.
Wednesday, December 10, 2014
Genetically Identical Bacteria Can Behave in Radically Different Ways
Although a population of bacteria may be genetically identical, individual bacteria within that population can act in radically different ways.
Friday, January 03, 2014
Depletion of ‘Traitor’ Immune Cells Slows Cancer Growth in Mice
When a person has cancer, some of the cells in his or her body have changed and are growing uncontrollably.
Wednesday, September 25, 2013
Extra Chromosome 21 Removed from Down Syndrome Cell Line
Scientists have succeeded in removing the extra copy of chromosome 21 in cell cultures derived from a person with Down syndrome, a condition in which the body’s cells contain three copies of chromosome 21.
Monday, November 12, 2012
Chemical Makes Blind Mice See
Researchers who discovered the chemical are working on an improved compound that may someday allow people with degenerative blindness to see again.
Wednesday, August 01, 2012
Exome Sequencing of Health Condition Extremes Can Reveal Susceptibility Genes
Comparing the DNA from patients at the best and worst extremes of a health condition can reveal genes for resistance and susceptibility.
Tuesday, July 17, 2012
Gene Therapy Delivered Once to Blood Vessel Wall Protects Against Atherosclerosis in Rabbit Studies By Leila Gray
The results came from research in rabbits, published July 19 in the journal Molecular Therapy.
Tuesday, July 26, 2011
Genetic Region Linked to a Five Times Higher Lung Cancer Risk
A narrow region on chromosome 15 contains genetic variations strongly associated with familial lung cancer, says a study conducted by scientists at Washington University.
Monday, September 22, 2008
Eight new Human Genome Projects Offer Large-Scale Picture of Genetic Differences among Individual
A nationwide consortium led by the University of Washington has completed the first sequence-based map of structural variations in the human genome.
Tuesday, May 06, 2008
Cancer Cells More Likely to Genetically Mutate
Researcher at University of Washington find that the cells who become cancerous can also become 100 times more likely to genetically mutate than regular cells.
Friday, February 23, 2007
Scientific News
New Tech Vastly Improves CRISPR/Cas9 Accuracy
A new CRISPR/Cas9 technology developed by scientists at UMass Medical School is precise enough to surgically edit DNA at nearly any genomic location, while avoiding potentially harmful off-target changes typically seen in standard CRISPR gene editing techniques.
New Class of RNA Tumor Suppressors Identified
Two short, “housekeeping” RNA molecules block cancer growth by binding to an important cancer-associated protein called KRAS. More than a quarter of all human cancers are missing these RNAs.
Biologists Induce Flatworms to Grow Heads and Brains of Other Species
Findings shed light on role of a new kind of epigenetic signaling in evolution, could yield clues for understanding birth defects and regeneration.
Turning up the Tap on Microbes Leads to Better Protein Patenting
Mining millions of proteins could become faster and easier with a new technique that may also transform the enzyme-catalyst industry, according to University of California, Davis, researchers.
Mathematical Model Forecasts the Path of Breast Cancer
Chances of survival depend on which organs breast cancer tumors colonize first.
Exploring the Causes of Cancer
Queen's research to understand the regulation of a cell surface protein involved in cancer.
Ancient Viral Molecules Essential for Human Development
Genetic material from ancient viral infections is critical to human development, according to researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine.
Tardigrade's Are DNA Master Thieves
Tardigrades, nearly microscopic animals that can survive the harshest of environments, including outer space, hold the record for the animal that has the most foreign DNA.
The Secret Behind the Power of Bacterial Sex
Migration between different communities of bacteria is the key to the type of gene transfer that can lead to the spread of traits such as antibiotic resistance, according to researchers at Oxford University.
Farming’s in Their DNA
Ancient genomes reveal natural selection in action.
Skyscraper Banner

Skyscraper Banner
Go to LabTube
Go to eposters
Access to the latest scientific news
Exclusive articles
Upload and share your posters on ePosters
Latest presentations and webinars
View a library of 1,800+ scientific and medical posters
2,800+ scientific and medical posters
A library of 2,500+ scientific videos on LabTube
4,000+ scientific videos