|24 February 2017|

North America

A North American research team has developed new gene sequencing software which could aid the early detection and treatment of cancer.

The team from Johns Hopkins University, the Ontario Institute for Cancer Research and the University of Toronto outline its method for detecting the presence of an extra mark on DNA called cytosine methylation, in the journal Nature Methods.

The new computational software determines whether a human DNA sample includes the mark, which is linked to cancer and other adverse health conditions.

Reza Moridi, Ontario’s minister of research, innovation and science, said: “These new insights into DNA methylation could help lead to new and innovative ways to detect and treat cancer.”

The new software described in Nature Methods is used with a commercially available nanopore sequencing device. The authors say this technique will directly characterize DNA methylation from smaller tissue samples. “We show that with careful analysis of nanopore sequencing data we can extract this extra layer of information,” said lead author Jared T. Simpson, a principal investigator in the Informatics and Bio-computing Program at the Ontario Institute for Cancer Research and an assistant professor of computer science at the University of Toronto.

To help advance such research, the team members have made their nanopore sequencing software for detecting DNA methylation available on a free open-source basis.