Detecting specific nucleic acid sequences under challenging but potentially useful circumstances
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In this talk I will describe three circumstances where sensitive detection of nucleic acids leads to practical or useful results. All display synergy between academic research and biotechnology companies. The first, involving SEQUENOM in San Diego, uses both mass spectrometry of DNA and high throughput sequencing of DNA to detect traces of fetal DNA that are present n the peripheral blood of a pregnant woman. This allows prenatal diagnosis of fetal traits to be performed without any risk at all to mother or fetus. The second involving DiThera, in Costa Mesa, demonstrates schemes for the detection of specific RNA sequences in living cells. This provides a field of the dynamics of RNA synthesis and decay and offers the potential for the development of diagnostics and therapeutics based on RNA sequence alone. The third project uses technology developed by SelectX Pharmaceuticals, an antibiotic development company in Worcester Mass. Select X has safe technology to subject growing cultures to continuously increasing antibiotic stress. Using this technology and both protein and nucleic acid mass spectrometry the unusual discovery was recently made that some cells in culture at a cost to their own fitness, are able to help other cells to have enhanced antibiotic resistance. This shows that even in the simplest bacteria altruistic behavior is possible.