March 1, 2008 (Vol. 28, No. 5)
Shankar Sellappan Ph.D.
Use in Biomarker Identification and Drug Development Drive Market Expansion
In a very short time, qRT-PCR has emerged as one of the most useful approaches in a scientist’s toolbox. Advances in instrument capabilities and the many types of reagents now available are driving the introduction of this technology into many new fields including healthcare applications and beyond.
mRNA expression analysis provides information on how responses to genetic expression or pharmacological treatments are elicited by cells, and this methodology is likely to play an important role in drug discovery and drug-monitoring efforts.
Few hurdles stand in the way of qRT-PCR market growth, and the versatility and pure power of the technique is enticing to users across many industries. Much of the progression of qRT-PCR technology and adaptation in life science research and clinical laboratories have been led by the developments made available by instrument manufacturers.
The need to monitor a high number of mRNA signals has prompted tool manufacturers to increase the number of targets available for measurement, now standing at six. In addition, reagent providers have developed new methods to target and detect different mRNA targets within the same sample.
From an applications perspective, qRT-PCR provides data that is relatively difficult to obtain at a cheaper cost using other techniques. In research fields, qRT-PCR builds upon data gathered from genetic, genomic, and proteomics research studies that have built a large network of known communication lines between similar signal pathways.
From a clinical perspective, the ability to monitor mRNA expression presents an ideal opportunity to assess the efficacy of drug treatment and to adjust dosages accordingly. Also, the growing use of RNA interference (RNAi) or small interfering RNA (siRNA) to block deleterious mRNA signals from being translated into protein products is dependent on qRT-PCR to identify those signals for blocking.
Multiplexing qRT-PCR analysis is destined to push the qRT-PCR market to high levels. Limitations on the number of channels capable of measuring different mRNA targets, however, must be addressed in order to allow for qRT-PCR to analyze the full spectrum of interacting mRNA signals resulting from a cellular response.
Cellular responses are the culmination of a great number of different signals, and limiting the amount of data available for analyses will prove challenging for both life sciences research and clinical diagnostic applications. Instruments capable of multiplexing must be installed with many more filter channels, and the development of dyes and other color modalities must take advantage of the entire 300–850 nanometer wavelength spectrum.
In 2007, qRT-PCR market revenue in the U.S. was estimated at $740.7 million; that number is expected to reach $1,229.2 million by 2012. The increased use of this technology for biomarker identification and to accelerate drug development efforts in the research laboratory and clinical applications market is likely to account for much of this growth