Standardized microarrays may bring us one step closer

A new study by 64 renowned scientists may bring us one step closer to personalized medical treatment--that is, medical treatment tailored to each person's unique genetic make-up and medical condition. The study shows researchers how to get more consistent and reliable results when using a technology called microarrays or gene chips. Microarrays allow scientists to see how differences in gene expression are linked to specific diseases. Improving and standardizing microarray experiments will also allow earlier detection of diseases like cancer.

"The microarray is fairly new so, right now, researchers are using a lot of different methods and protocols in microarray experiments. That makes it hard for researchers to compare their results to results from other labs," said Kenneth Olden, Ph.D., Director of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS). "When scientists start using the same methods, equipment and reagents, data can be compared across the entire field of medicine and scientific advances will come more quickly."

The study, conducted by the Toxicogenomics Research Consortium, which is funded by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, part of the National Institutes of Health, was initiated in 2001 to asses what causes variation in gene expression experiments within and between labs, as well as within and between microarray platforms. The TRC is a consortium of 7 research centers including: NIEHS Microarray Group of the National Center for Toxicogenomics, Duke University, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center/University of Washington, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Oregon Health and Sciences University, and University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Icoria Inc. was also a research partner. The paper appears in the May issue of Nature Methods.

The researchers systematically examined the processes involved in most microarray or gene expression studies, and found that using a standardized

Contact: Robin Mackar
NIH/National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences

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