The Science Behind the Gene Display

Postage stamp-sized chipsThe Gene Display is a larger-than-life representation of a microarray, the innovative technology that Dana-Farber researchers utilize to survey the behavior of many genes in a tumor cell at once. Acting like a tiny laboratory on a silicon rectangle the size of a postage stamp, the microarray measures the "expression" of the tumor's genes. A scanner then reads and converts the data into a vivid, colored display showing the varying levels of genetic activity. Red indicates a high level of activity and blue, a low level of activity.

Using this information, scientists classify tumors according to their unique genetic signatures, allowing more accurate diagnoses and, ultimately, more individual and targeted therapies for cancer patients. This works because cancer, at its root, is a disease that involves the alteration of any of the 25,000 genes that comprise the human genome. These mutations may spur aggressive growth of some genes while other genes that may have worked to prevent cancer before are unable to do so anymore.

This personalized approach results in a collaboration with researchers and physicians working side by side to determine the best method of treatment for each individual patient.

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Contact: Rebecca Sears
Tel: 617-582-8830
E-mail: gene_display@dfci.harvard.edu

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