DNA probes in human disease.
Malcolm AD., Fallon RA., Langdale JA., Figueiredo H., Nicholls PJ., Voss UB., Wickenden C., Woodhead JL.
Nucleic acid probes are able to detect the presence of particular sequences in a sample down to the level of a few hundred molecules. They can discriminate between similar sequences to a resolution of better than one part in 10(9). They are capable of detecting inherited defects in tissues where the phenotype is not being expressed, and in cases where the biochemical aberration is not understood. They can characterize acquired diseases in somatic cells (both tumours and infectious agents). Additionally, they can be used to characterize multifactorial (either polygenic or requiring an environmental stimulus to interact with a genetic predisposition) diseases. Nucleic acid 'fingerprints' provide an unequivocal identification of the origin of cells which may be applied in criminal law, civil law, and in the follow up to bone marrow transplants. In spite of this tremendous potential, there is still a large gap between their use in research laboratories and their widespread application in pathology laboratories. There are two basic reasons for this. The first is the number of labour-intensive steps involved in the various 'blotting' techniques which greatly reduces the rate at which assays may be performed. The second is the need to use probes labelled with isotopes which are short-lived and may require stringent safety measures to be employed. Recent work both in this laboratory and elsewhere is designed to circumvent both these problems.