Advances in whole-genome bisulfite sequencing: potential for improvement of cancer diagnoses

New technology developed by an international team of scientists increases information that can be extracted from whole-genome bisulfite sequencing studies.

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Jul 07, 2016
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An international collaborative project led by scientists at UCL (London, UK) has developed a tool that allows for higher quality and more accurate information to be extracted from epigenome sequencing datasets, hopefully allowing for more comprehensive analysis of cancers. The collaboration has recently published two research articles in Nature Biotechnology and Nature Communications describing these advances.

Epigenetic variants are very frequent in many different types of cancer, and can provide important information regarding the development and progression of cancer. The team thus sought to develop advancements in epigenome sequencing technologies, in order to more efficiently and comprehensively analyze epigenetic modifications in cancer tissues.

Lead author of the studies Emanuele Libertini (UCL Cancer Institute) commented: “We are looking at what information can be extracted from DNA methylation using whole-genome bisulfite sequencing (WGBS) technology. WGBS has been widely used to generate reference methylomes since 2010 and our improvements empower researchers to obtain additional information that could not be obtained before.”

“To achieve this, we've developed a tool that dynamically segments WGBS methylomes into blocks of comethylation (COMETs) from which previously undetected information can be recovered. Given the high cost of WGBS, there is a clear benefit to extracting as much information as possible from a given dataset – our algorithms allow us to extract information that is not available to standard analysis. Essentially, we are offering a way to get more for less.”

Furthermore, Stephan Beck (Head of the Medical Genomics Research Group at the UCL Cancer Institute) remarked: “This exciting new technology will advance our ability to understand phenotypic plasticity in health and disease, an important aspect of cancer research.”

– Written by Georgia Patey

Source: UCL press release: https://www.ucl.ac.uk/cancer/news/epigenome-sequencing-technologies-cancer-diagnostics
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Georgia Patey

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