Helicos BioSciences Corp. (NASDAQ:HLCS) and Mass. General Hospital say a study of Helicos’ DNA analysis technology could be a breakthrough in the study of gene regulation.
A paper in Nature Methods by MGH’s Dr. Bradley Bernstein details the use of the Cambridge, Mass.-based company’s technique to directly measure single molecules of DNA. Helicos claims the technology’s benefits include easy sample preparation, without the need for polymerase-chain reactions or amplification of samples. That means less sample volume is required, which could be of great benefit for research into cancer progression and developmental biology, according to a press release.
Bernstein’s paper, “Chromatin Profiling by Directly Sequencing Small Quantities of Immunoprecipitated DNA,” (paid) they say, demonstrates “the first direct sequencing of chromatin immuno-precipitated nucleic acid from a small amount of starting material.”
“This work represents an important broadening of the application of ChIP-Seq to the fields of cancer progression and developmental biology, areas of research in which sample amounts are often limiting,” according to the press release. “The new approach obviates the need for complex sample preparation and polymerase chain reaction (PCR) amplification steps that can lead to biased or incomplete results, and provides the opportunity to investigate the epigenomes of new cell types that were previously inaccessible.”
Bernstein said the technology could help improve the understanding of genome regulation, because it minimizes the size of the sample.
“By reducing the number of cells required for analysis, it is expected that Helicos’ technology will help to provide a significantly higher resolution of genome regulation than previously possible,” he said in a statement.
This study affirms the simplicity of the methods required for single molecule sequencing and demonstrates the enabling potential of the method for characterizing the small cell numbers required for, amongst other things, studies of early stem cell differentiation.
Helicos CEO Ron Lowy said Bernstein’s MGH team approached the company about using its technology, believing single-molecule sequencing to be the key to exposing regulatory differences among embryonic stem cells and induced pluripotent stem cells.
“We believe that this marks the beginning of more breakthrough studies to come,” Lowy said in the release.