The new technological genetic research advancements allow epigenomic analysis to be conducted with only 100 cells, instead of the more than 10 million cells that such a study previously required.
This will greatly improve the creation of personalized medicine in the near future, as the investigations currently done on epigenomes, especially in the study of various diseases including cancer, inflammation and stem cell differentiation will become faster.
New research methods
In the past, DNA mapping for epigenomic analysis required the use of more than 10 million cells for a single test, which is why it was difficult to carry out an analysis from patient samples. With the new technology developed by researchers at Virginia Tech, cell analysis could be done using a mere 100 cells.
Virginia Tech chemical engineering professor Chang Lu had been working on the development of tools for the effective analysis of living cells for more than 10 years. His end goal is to have a better understanding of various diseases and thanks to micro technology, the professor and his students have finally developed tiny microfluidic devices. These mini devices have micrometer attributes that allow them to examine in-cell molecular events. Microfluidics is a division of science that looks into the treatment, control and performance of fluids that are in some ways restrained.
Collaborating with internal medicine associate professor and system biologist Kai Tan from the University of Iowa, the scientists were able to present the scientific and medical community with MOWChIP-Seq, a new technique termed as “microfluidic oscillatory washing based chromatin immunoprecipitation.” This device allowed them to analyze epigenomic modifications requiring only about 100 cells. The description of this scientific breakthrough has been published in the journal, Nature Methods. The seed grant for the research was provided by the Institute for Critical Technology and Applied Science of Virginia Tech and the National Instituted of Health.
The conventional ChIP method required several hours of operation, whereas the MOWChIP only needs 90 minutes to process the sequence. The new technology allowed them to collect the required fragments of chromatin efficiently then effectively washing them to remove the debris and unwanted molecules, which also guaranteed that the molecules they collect are pure.
This technology is going to be of great help for epigenomic study in embryonic hematopoiesis (development of the cellular components of the blood at the embryonic stage) that had proven very difficult in the past.
With its limited cell quantity requirement, it would be easier and faster to study epigenomes, according to Professor Lu. Likewise, they are looking at this new technology to conduct studies on cancer and inflammation very soon. On behalf of Professor Lu, a utility patent for MOWChIP-Seq had been filed by the Virginia Tech Intellectual Properties.
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