The rapidly expanding field of microarrays has begun harnessing the power of other cutting-edge technologies such as next-generation sequencing, quantitative polymerase chain reaction (qPCR), and systems biology. Merging the best of each area is fueling new growth especially in the areas of molecular diagnostics and personalized medicine.
Microarray advances were featured at the recent Australasian Microarray & Associated Technologies Association meeting and more will be highlighted at CHI’s upcoming “Molecular Medicine Tri-Conference”.
“The last three years have seen a virtual revolution in next-generation sequencing,” notes Vishy Iyer, Ph.D., professor, Institute for Cellular and Molecular Biology, University of Texas at Austin. “We are now able to look at the whole genome in much more detail than ever before. This is clearly important for understanding the functional behavior of the genome. Additionally, the phenomenal popularity of microarrays has been fueled by their ability to assess global gene-expression profiles of RNA. Coupling the capabilities of both provides a powerful tool to examine whole genomes in incredible detail.”
Dr. Iyer’s studies utilize yeast as a model system to address various aspects of global gene expression and use next-generation sequencing coupled with microarrays. “One of our projects involves delineating the role of chromatin in gene regulation. Chromosomes consist of building blocks called nucleosomes that carry epigenetically inherited information mediated by their core histone proteins. We wanted to learn where nucleosomes sit on DNA and how they respond to cellular perturbations.
“We compared yeast that were heat shocked or not, extracted DNA that was wrapped around the nucleosomes, sequenced it to identify the nucleosome locations, and assessed the corresponding RNA via microarrays. We were able to identify specific chromatin-remodeling patterns associated with different sets of genes that were activated and repressed by heat shock.”
Ultimately, such studies may shed more light on understanding how somatic mutations and genomic rearrangements contribute to cancer.
“A very important basic question now is to determine the spectrum of variation that occurs in different populations and to correlate that to disease. The technology will likely continue to advance in sophistication, but also become more affordable as more people employ such methods.”