A new blood test using DNA from dying cells can detect diabetes, multiple sclerosis, pancreatic cancer, brain degeneration and other diseases, according to a new clinical research.
This technique, which could open the path to a new diagnostic tool, is based on the specific genetic signature of tissues whose cells are dying as a result of a pathology or trauma.
The researchers conducted a series of experiments with 320 patients and a control group. Their work was publbished last Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).
Cell death is a central aspect of human biology. This process can indicate the early stages of a disease such as the development of a cancerous tumor or the beginning of an autoimmune or neurodegenerative disease like Alzheimer’s. It can also enable determination of the progress of a disease, the success of a therapy or its toxic effects.
But until now it was not possible to determine to which organ dying cells belonged without an invasive procedure.
This new blood test can detect specific tissues where cells die by combining two important biological principles.
First, the cells dying release DNA fragments into the blood where they circulate during a short time. This phenomenon has been known for decades but since the genetic signature of all body cells is identical, it was not possible to determine the origine tissue of this DNA.
The second principle is that the DNA of each cell type has a unique chemical brand called methylation that is stable in healthy and sick tissues.
These experiences show that it is possible to identify from which tissues in the body come DNA fragments that are circulating in the blood. This represents a new method to detect dying cells in specific tissues and a very promising approach to diagnose diseases.