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Credit: Sigrid Knemeyer, SciStories LLC

ANN ARBOR, Michigan — The idea of testing blood or urine to find markers that help diagnose or treat disease holds great promise. But as technology has improved to allow researchers to examine tiny fragments of RNA, one major problem has led to limited success.

“Different people are using different methods to sequence small RNA, and sometimes getting different results. If it keeps going on like that, it will be hard for the field to make progress,” says Muneesh Tewari, M.D., Ph.D., professor of internal medicine and biomedical engineering at Michigan Medicine.

Tewari’s lab led a group of nine labs across the United States and the Netherlands, brought together through the National Institutes of Health, that sought to solve this problem.

The consortium tested nine different methods for RNA sequencing to understand and standardize the best way to sequence small RNAs. The goal was to create a process that could be reproduced from one lab to the next.

A liquid biopsy relies largely on the ability to sequence small RNA such as microRNA. These tiny cellular fragments can become altered in diseases such as cancer, providing a clue to help spot disease in

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