Life Technologies teams with EdgeBio and Virginia Commonwealth University in schizophrenia marker study

Study is said to have significant implications for the development of personalized genomic medicine

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CARLSBAD, Calif.—Life Technologies has announced a partnership with Gaithersburg, Md.-based EdgeBio and Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) to study how gene regulation and epigenetic markers impact the development of schizophrenia.

The research study will employ Life Technologies' SOLiD System and MethylMiner methylated DNA enrichment kit to conduct genome-wide sequencing and methylation studies of a cohort of 1,500 patients and controls, according to Life Technologies.

EdgeBio, in turn, will use the MethylMiner to enrich genome samples for methylated DNA, and it will sequence the resulting libraries using the SOLiD system, while VCU researchers will analyze the data generated by EdgeBio.

Initially, the goal is to find methylated markers associated with schizophrenia, so that VCU researchers can carry on with study of the most promising markers from an additional 1,600 patients and controls.

"For the first time with this research, scientists will study epigenetics population-wide in a complex disease," says John Miller, president of Life Technologies' Genetic Systems Division. "This study in particular has significant implications for the development of personalized genomic medicine."

"DNA methylation studies represent a particularly promising approach to complement traditional genetic studies of schizophrenia," adds Edwin van den Oord, director of VCU School of Pharmacy's Center for Biomarker Research and Personalized Medicine. "This is because methylation is directly related to gene regulation and can shed a unique light on disease mechanisms. Methylation sites are also excellent new drug targets that are accessible at the stable DNA level, making them potentially easy to use in clinical settings to improve diagnosis and individualize drug treatment."

The regulation of genes is often influenced by whether the DNA backbone is "marked" with methyl groups. Genes having regulatory sequences that are methylated are turned off, whereas those lacking methylation tend to be expressed. Differences in methylation patterns from person to person or even cell type to cell type within an individuals tissues may influence the development of many diseases, including cancer, diabetes and neuropsychiatric illnesses such as schizophrenia.

"This is indeed an ambitious study.  Sequencing 1,500 genomes along with 75 technical replicates, even after enriching for methylated DNA, is a significant undertaking," says Dean Gaalaas, CEO of EdgeBio. "We are pleased to couple EdgeBio's unique strengths with Life Technologies' enabling systems to achieve the goals of this study in a compressed time period and within budget. We believe this illustrates a novel and efficient paradigm for accomplishing genomic research, with rapid and cost-effective data production providing the basic engine for biological discovery."

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