March 26, 2016–Dr. Ruth Shemer and Professor Yuval Dor from The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and Professor Benjamin Glaser from Hadassah Medical Center created a new blood test that can detect diabetes, multiple sclerosis, pancreatic cancer, pancreatitis and brain damage, opening up vast possibilities for diagnostic medicine.
“Our work demonstrates that the tissue origins of circulating DNA can be measured in humans. This represents a new method for sensitive detection of cell death in specific tissues and an exciting approach for diagnostic medicine,” said Dr. Ruth Shemer of The Hebrew University, a DNA methylation expert and one of the lead authors of the new study.
The researchers identified multiple DNA sequences that are methylated in a tissue-specific manner (for example, DNA that is not methylated in neurons but methylated elsewhere), and can serve as biomarkers for the detection of DNA derived from each tissue. They then developed a method to detect these methylated patterns in DNA circulating in the peripheral bloodstream and demonstrated its utility for identifying the origins of circulating DNA in different human pathologies, as an indication of cell death in specific tissues. They were able to detect evidence for pancreatic beta-cell death in the blood of patients with new-onset type 1 diabetes, oligodendrocyte death in patients with relapsing multiple sclerosis, brain cell death in patients after traumatic or ischemic brain damage, and exocrine pancreas cell death in patients with pancreatic cancer or pancreatitis.
This groundbreaking discovery is also breaking news around the world. Several publications featured the discovery including Times of Israel, Science Magazine, The Daily Mail and Jerusalem Post.