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There, Floating in the Blood

Cell-free DNA-based tests are poised to change how diseases are detected, Scientific American writes.

Liquid biopsies are already being explored to examine tumor DNA circulating in the blood to uncover mutations to guide treatment as well as to monitor transplant patients' blood for increased levels of donor DNA, which signals a higher risk of organ rejection. In both cases, Scientific American says the hope is to avoid repeat tissue biopsies.

And that may be just the tip of the iceberg. It adds that Stephen Quake's lab at Stanford University has noticed that cfDNA detection techniques can also capture genetic material from pathogens, while a team in Israel has found that people with impending diabetes have increased levels of cfDNA from pancreatic islet cells. Others, meanwhile, are working on ways to determine the tissues of origins of cfDNA.

"Right now, the technologies are new and more expensive than a blood culture, so this is not the first line of defense," Mickey Kertesz from the Quake lab, which has spun out a related company, tells Sciam. "But I have no doubt that in a few years this will be the way to go."