Scientists develop simpler technique to identify DNA mutations that cause diseases

SINGAPORE- Scientists at the Genome Institute of Singapore (GIS) have developed a new simpler technique to identify the DNA mutations that cause disease.

This sets the basics for the development of drugs and new ways of diagnosing diseases.

The Genotype-independent Signal Correlation and Imbalance (GSI)- method senses specific chemical changes within the genetic material, which indicates changes in molecules in the body that cause diseases, said GIS, an institute under the Agency for Science, Technology and Research in a press statement on Friday.

Scientists need to identify the change in disease-causing molecules so that they can come up with drugs to target them, delay or even stop the change. They also want to understand how molecules interact, so that they find the right indicators to monitor and diagnose disease earlier.

"The new method is 10 times more sensitive than existing methods at identifying detrimental gene mutations," said Dr Shyam Prabhakar, Associate Director for Integrated Genomics at GIS, who led the research. "This means that you might need to recruit fewer candidates if you want to study a disease. Instead of 500 candidates, you might only need 50.

" Since you don't need to recruit so many people, it might also speed up drug development," he added.

His team also developed a "statistical trick" to study changes in DNA from large data sets more effectively, he said.

The new method contributes to precision medicine, a growing field of medicine that advocates doctors tailor their treatment methods to a person's genetic context. The researchers' findings were reported in scientific journal Nature Methods earlier this week.

Join ST's WhatsApp Channel and get the latest news and must-reads.