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Gene chip

Gene chips are devices not much larger than postage stamps. They are based on a glass substrate wafer and contain many tiny cells — 400,000 is common. Each holds DNA from a different human gene. The array of cells makes it possible to carry out a very large number of genetic tests on a sample at one time. At the moment, the devices are used in pharmaceutical laboratories to investigate what genes are involved in various normal and disease processes and to speed up the slow and painstaking process of finding new drugs. The hope is that it will soon be possible for doctors to use these devices to run simple tests on patients during examinations in order to diagnose diseases with a genetic base or to find a treatment tailored to an individual’s genetic make-up. The concept is seen as having vast potential, and more than a dozen firms are trying out various cost-effective ways of making the chips. The devices are often called DNA chips, or — generally — biochips; more formally they are referred to as microarrays, and the process of testing the gene patterns of an individual is sometimes called microarray profiling.

In one of the first applications of high-powered “gene chip” technology to an important psychiatric syndrome, scientists reported yesterday the discovery of genes that may prove key to understanding schizophrenia.

Washington Times, Nov. 2000

People, not populations, will be treated with tailor-made drugs that suit their genetic makeup; gene chips will identify who is at most risk of disease, so they can have more check-ups; similar chips will distinguish one type of cancer from another, so the best treatment is chosen; gene transplants will be used to correct mutations that cause metabolic disorders.

Daily Telegraph, June 2000

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Page created 25 Nov 2000