Subscribe to the BioNews newsletter for free

Login
Advanced Search

Search for
BioNews

Like the Progress Educational Trust on Facebook


 


 

DNA blood test could detect multiple diseases

21 March 2016

By Hannah Somers

Appeared in BioNews 844

Scientists say they have been able to detect multiple diseases, including pancreatic cancer, multiple sclerosis and type 1 diabetes, by analysing fragments of DNA in the bloodstream.  

They hope to develop a new type of blood test that can detect these diseases at a very early stage, leading to earlier treatment and better prognoses.

'Our work demonstrates that the tissue origins of circulating DNA can be measured in humans. This represents a new method for sensitive detection of cell death in specific tissues, and an exciting approach for diagnostic medicine,' said study co-author Dr Ruth Shemer of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in Israel.

Researchers investigated cell-free DNA (cfDNA) in blood taken from over 300 patients suffering from a variety of diseases, and were able to identify the type of disease patients were suffering from.

It has been known for some time that dying cells release fragmented DNA into the bloodstream. But as the DNA in all cells of the human body is identical it had not previously been possible to identify which tissue the DNA had come from.

However, the methylation patterns vary between tissues – with different genes being turned on or off in different tissues. Using these patterns the researchers were able to distinguish different cell types.

They were able to detect cfDNA of oligodendrocytes – the brain cells destroyed multiple sclerosis – in the bloodstream of 14 out of 19 patients with the disease. Other diseases, such as pancreatitis and type I diabetes, similar levels of detectable cfDNA.

The researchers were also able to distinguish pancreatic cancer from pancreatitis, by incorporating a test for a cancer mutation alongside methylation pattern recognition. Two other research groups have also reported positive preliminary results in cancer detection.

Prior to this work it had not been possible to measure cell death non-invasively. The researchers now hope that this approach could be adapted to identify cfDNA derived from any cell type in the body.

'In the long run, we envision a new type of blood test aimed at the sensitive detection of tissue damage, even without a priori suspicion of disease in a specific organ. We believe that such a tool will have broad utility in diagnostic medicine and in the study of human biology', said Professor Benjamin Glaser, head of endocrinology at Hadassah Medical Center and a lead author of the study.

Immunobiologist Professor Kevan Herold of Yale University, who was not involved in the study, told Science that the work bodes well for developing a cfDNA test that could be used to screen people at high risk for type 1 diabetes before their pancreas is so damaged that blood sugar levels rise. 'The hope is that we could intervene at an early stage and try to prevent progression,' he said.

RELATED ARTICLES FROM THE BIONEWS ARCHIVE

13 March 2017 - by Dr Loredana Guglielmi 
Researchers have developed a new blood test that can not only detect cancer at an early stage, but can also indicate where the tumour is located in the body...
12 September 2016 - by Meetal Solanki 
A blood test costing only £35 could help in the early diagnosis of oesophageal cancer and could be available in five years' time...
09 May 2016 - by Rachel Siden 
Adding more genes to existing multi-gene panels that test for breast and ovarian cancer risk offers little clinical benefit, a study says...
04 April 2016 - by Dr James Heather 
Hospitals around the UK are going to start examining the DNA of tumour cells from paediatric cancer patients in a pilot study starting later this year...

14 March 2016 - by Dr Lucy Freem 
Scientists have developed a blood test that captures tumour DNA from stray cancer cells circulating in the blood and allows them to monitor genetic changes in skin cancer...
15 February 2016 - by Helen Robertson 
A blood test to diagnose common types of cancer is in development after researchers found that five forms of the disease share a telltale chemical signature...
09 November 2015 - by Ayala Ochert 
Scientists say it may be possible to track the progress of cancer – and cancer treatment – in real time from fragments of tumour DNA that are shed into the bloodstream...
14 September 2015 - by Isobel Steer 
A US startup called Pathway Genomics has launched the first commercial 'liquid biopsy' to identify cancerous mutations via a blood test...
18 May 2015 - by Dr Nicola Davis 
Researchers have discovered a pattern in 11 genes that could make it quick and easy to diagnose sepsis, a serious life-threatening condition...

HAVE YOUR SAY
Be the first to have your say.

You need to or  to add comments.

By posting a comment you agree to abide by the BioNews terms and conditions


- click here to enquire about using this story.

Published by the Progress Educational Trust

CROSSING FRONTIERS

Public Conference
London
8 December 2017

Speakers include

Professor Azim Surani

Professor Magdalena Zernicka-Goetz

Professor Robin Lovell-Badge

Sally Cheshire

Professor Guido Pennings

Katherine Littler

Professor Allan Pacey

Dr Sue Avery

Professor Richard Anderson

Dr Elizabeth Garner

Dr Andy Greenfield

Dr Anna Smajdor

Dr Henry Malter

Vivienne Parry

Dr Helen O'Neill

Dr César Palacios-González

Philippa Taylor

Fiona Fox

Sarah Norcross

Sandy Starr


BOOK HERE

Good Fundraising Code

Become a Friend of PET HERE and give the Progress Educational Trust a regular donation