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Molecular Staging Technology May Turbocharge DNA Amplification

NEW YORK, April 16 - Technology developed by Molecular Staging and researchers at Yale University can extract and amplify the entire human genome roughly one-million-fold in a few steps and from non-traditional material such as biopsies and needle aspirates, according to results of a recent study.


The technology, which MSI calls multiple displacement amplification, is designed to rapidly amplify DNA with comprehensive loci coverage, minimal bias between any loci, and yield 10+ kb fragments, according to Michael Egholm, vice president of research at MSI.

"If I look at anywhere on the genome, there's really no bias in the amplification, so any two arbitrarily-picked spots will have almost the same concentration after a million-fold amplification," Egholm told GenomeWeb in an interview today. "In practice, what it means is that the amplified DNA is the exact information--the number of SNPs, same everything--is preserved.


The research is published in the current issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.


To use the technology, researchers add a set of reagents and polymerase developed at MSI, and approximately six hours later they are left with an "exact replica" of the DNA they started with.


"You can basically take anything you're doing today--PCR, Invader assays--and do that directly on the amplified material," said Egholm. "The unique thing here is that you can do literally millions of assays of DNA that derives from as little as 10 cells."


This is a big issue, say researchers, who point to the increase in the variety of genetic tests. As more SNP assays and new biomarkers become available, scientists will want to turn to DNA for more tests. "And they will find that there's not enough DNA to do all of the tests they want to do," Egholm said.


He said that MSI plans to commercialize this technology, which is based on research conducted at Yale University, soon, and said the company has already lined up customers. He added that MSI plans to develop and launch by the end of the year a kit to help researchers use the technology themselves, and will conduct acid testing in clinical labs in a couple of weeks, he added.


Egholm said that though MSI will market and sell the service and kits, the company is considering whether to manufacture the tools itself.


Asked if he thinks this technology will subvert currently available tools, Egholm said: "No. I actually think this will increase the use of such technologies [as PCR]. What we would do, in my dreams, is that this will be the generic front end to all PCR-based or genetic testing."

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