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Currently, it is very difficult to get accurate data both rapidly and cost-effectively on the extent of a base change (e. g a mutation or single nucleotide polymorphism) within a sample of patient DNA. While there are technologies that can reveal information on the presence of the mutant cells, there is no established reliable inexpensive gold standard to quantify the ratio of healthy cells to mutant cells, which is crucial for cancer surveillance. Cheap and efficient techniques are sought after that can be used to monitor the success and efficiency of selected cancer therapy without relying on such procedures as full genetic sequencing or tomography.
Researchers at the University of Birmingham, are overcoming this, having developed a novel probe system that can detect single point variations in target DNA/RNA, with the probe only lighting up when the exact sequence denoting mutant DNA/RNA is present. A crucial aspect of this technology is that the brightness of the signal depends on the amount of mutant DNA/RNA present in the sample, allowing the ratio of ‘cancerous to healthy DNA’ to be obtained via a simple reading from a fluorescence calibration curve, making the technology accessible and easy to use.