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New method simplifies search for genetic changes associated with disease

St. Louis, January 4, 2005 -- It is now significantly easier to search long stretches of DNA for genetic changes associated with disease, thanks to scientists at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.

The researchers developed a method called direct genomic selection that accelerates the transition between family or population-based studies of disease inheritance patterns and identification of genetic variations that may contribute to disease. That transition normally slows down dramatically when scientists have to sequence regions of interest in patients' DNA, determining the letter-by-letter genetic code found in those regions.

With the base sequences from many patients' DNA, scientists can conduct comparisons that highlight the changes most commonly linked to disease, providing them the leads they need to better understand and treat a wide range of disorders.

Researchers report in the January issue of Nature Methods that they've already applied direct genomic selection to a region of DNA linked to psoriasis, a disfiguring and potentially debilitating inherited skin condition.

"We quickly found 100 previously unidentified genetic variations with potential links to psoriasis," says senior author Michael Lovett, Ph.D., professor of genetics and pediatrics. "It really is a much quicker and more affordable way of getting at these types of variations and has potential for applications in other areas including cancer research."

Lovett is working with colleagues at the Genome Sequencing Center (GSC) at Washington University School of Medicine to make direct genomic selection available to a much wider group of researchers. The approach will further empower the University's BioMed 21 initiative, which is dedicated to harnessing genetic studies and other basic research for improved patient diagnosis and treatment.

"This is a major technological breakthrough," says Mark Johnston, Ph.D., professor and chair of t
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Contact: Michael C. Purdy
purdym@wustl.edu
314-286-0122
Washington University School of Medicine
6-Jan-2005


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