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Archive - Feb 23, 2019

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Algorithm Based on Analysis of Maternal Blood Sample, Paternal Blood Sample, and Cell-Free Fetal DNA Fragments in Maternal Circulation May Permit Prediction of Many Single-Gene Disorders in Fetus As Early As 11 Weeks

Tel Aviv University (TAU) researchers have developed a new blood test for genetic disorders that may allow parents to learn about the health of their baby as early as 11 weeks into pregnancy. The simple blood test lets doctors diagnose genetic disorders in fetuses early in pregnancy by sequencing small amounts of DNA in the mother's and the father's blood. A computer algorithm harnessing the results of the sequencing would then produce a "map" of the fetal genome, predicting mutations with 99% or better accuracy depending on the mutation type. Professor Noam Shomron of TAU's Sackler School of Medicine led the research, which was conducted by TAU graduate student Tom Rabinowitz with Avital Polsky, Artem Danilevsky, Guy Shapira, and Chen Raff, all from Professor Shomron's lab. The study is a collaboration with Dr. David Golan of the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology and Professor Lina Basel-Salmon and Dr. Reut Tomashov-Matar of Rabin Medical Center. It was published online on February 20, 2019 in Genome Research. The open-access article is titled “Bayesian-Based Noninvasive Prenatal Diagnosis of Single-Gene Disorders.” "Noninvasive prenatal tests are already available for chromosome disorders such as Down syndrome," Professor Shomron says. "Our new procedure is based on fetal DNA fragments that circulate freely in maternal blood and bears only a minimal risk for the mother and fetus compared with such invasive techniques as the amniotic fluid test. We will now be able to identify numerous mutations and diseases in a safe and simple procedure available at the doctor's office. "The genetic mechanism behind Down syndrome affects a very large portion of the genome and therefore is easier to detect," Professor Shomron explains.

New Work May Lead to Increased UVA Protection for Those with Friedrich’s Ataxia (FA), and Other Diseases Associated with Mitochondrial Iron Overload, Such As Wolfram Syndrome & Parkinson’s Disease

Skin cells taken from patients with a rare genetic disorder are up to ten times more sensitive to damage from ultraviolet A (UVA) radiation in laboratory tests, than those from a healthy population, according to new research from the University of Bath in the UK. It is hoped that the work, which has involved designing a brand new molecule with potential to be added to sun cream, could benefit those with Friedrich's ataxia (FA, also abbreviated (FDRA), as well as those with other disorders characterized by mitochondrial iron overload, notably Wolfram syndrome and Parkinson's disease, where UVA rays from the sun may pose particular challenges. Although most sun creams are effective against UVB rays, generally they only protect against UVA rays through the reflective properties of the cream alone. When cells are exposed to UVA rays, the damage caused to cells can be worsened by excess free iron in mitochondria which fuels the generation of 'free radicals,’ including reactive oxygen species (ROS), which can damage DNA, protein, and fats - increasing the risk of cell death and cancer. Patients with FA have high levels of free iron in their mitochondria. This new research, led by scientists at the University of Bath, King's College London and Brunel University London shows that this excess free iron makes skin cells from these patients up to 10 times more susceptible to UVA damage. The scientists have custom-built a molecule which acts like a claw to scoop up excess iron particles within mitochondria, preventing these miolecules from amplifying UVA-induced damage. The researchers' goal is to see this iron-scooping molecule added to sun creams to enhance their protective effect against UVA rays.