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July 7, 2005

New Gene-Scanning Technique

A team out of the University of Southampton recently announced that they have successfully applied a cost-effective technique to scan the human genome for genetic mutations.

The scanning device, meltMADGE, "combines thermal ramp electrophoresis with microplate array diagonal gel electrophoresis."

A team of British medical researchers used meltMADGE to scan the genes of about 10,000 individuals for mutations associated with cholesterol blood levels.

According to the original article in Science Daily: "This is the first time that it has been possible to find out whether there may be unknown rare genetic variations in the population which may cause mild forms of a particular disease or feature in just one or two individuals, or may even protect them against disease."

Although it is currently only being used for research, the team reports that this technology has the potential to be used in clinical practice. If it becomes mainstream, it could be revolutionary for diagnosis, family planning, and drug prescribing practices. Although schizophrenia and psychiatric disorders do not have single genes associated with them, gene-scanning for identified susceptibility genes could give someone a more accurate idea of what their hereditary risk is. This could be especially important for bipolar disorder, which seems to have an even greater genetic component to it than schizophrenia (see the current estimates of how much genetics contributes to bipolar -

Moreover, scientists have already determined through some research studies that the unique genome of an individual can affect how their body reacts to medications (see Newsblog item 'Gene Profiling for Meds'). A gene-scanning technique that becomes commonplace in clinical practice could help speed up the clumsy trial-and-error process of determining dosages for different individuals, which could then increase beneficial effects sooner and reduce unwanted side-effects.

Original article: New Gene Scanning Technology Marks A Major Advance In Disease Research. Science Daily (, July 7 2005.


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