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PORTLAND, Oregon – Of the 37 trillion cells in the typical human body, the ability to distinguish one type of cell from another isn’t as straightforward as you may think.

OHSU scientists have for the first time developed a method to quickly and efficiently recognize the subtypes of cells within the body. Led by researchers in the lab of Andrew Adey, Ph.D., the discovery will improve understanding of disease at the molecular level. This new technology ultimately could enable the development of precise treatments of conditions such as cancer, disorders that destroy neurons in the brain, and diseases that affect the heart and blood vessels.

The findings will be published April 9 in the journal Nature Biotechnology.

The new technology provides a method to scale up a previously known method for profiling cell types distinguished by the pattern of chemical markers studding their DNA.

“It will be incredibly valuable in any environment where there is cell type heterogeneity [diversity],” said Adey, senior author, assistant professor of molecular and medical genetics in the OHSU School of Medicine and a member of the Knight Cardiovascular Institute. “The major areas of interest will be cancer and neuroscience, but we are also applying

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