Liquid Biopsy

The biopsy – often an invasive and painful procedure – is currently the only way to determine the presence of cancerous cells. In some cases, the location of a suspected tumor makes conducting the procedure too complicated or too dangerous. “What keeps me awake at night is our effort to develop a new type of diagnostic blood test, one that detects the pathology of different tissues and indicates the presence or absence of disease,” says Prof. Yuval Dor, who heads a research team in the Faculty of Medicine’s Department of Developmental Biology and Cancer.

Their approach to diagnosis is based on two biological principles: first, that when cells die – as they do regularly – they release their DNA into the bloodstream; and second, that each cell type has special chemical markers on its DNA. By detecting these chemical markers in DNA circulating in blood, scientists can identify the source tissue of each DNA molecule and determine which cells in the body have recently died, which is tremendously important for clinical diagnosis of different diseases. Prof. Dor and his team have already used their new method to detect tissue-specific cell death in many medical situations including type 1 diabetes, cancer, neurodegeneration and trauma. In the future, they plan to develop their innovative technology into a new type of standard blood test that will detect diseases at earlier, more treatable stages.

Several years ago, Prof. Dor’s research team identified the key signal that prompts the production of insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas. Their breakthrough has become the basis for further research on ways to restore or increase beta cell function and the development of a drug to direct beta cells to regenerate and replicate.

The next step:

Translational Research: Metabolic Diseases

Scientists and clinicians in the Faculty of Medicine have already published groundbreaking results from an extensive list of research projects that have important implications for the diagnosis and treatment of people suffering from the broad spectrum of metabolic diseases, particularly diabetes.

Translational research provides the environment and opportunity to intensify scientific efforts by combining the study of the diseases’ molecular and genetic structure with an understanding of their unique biochemistry and physiology.

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