This article was first published by The Times of Israel and was re-posted with permission.
Israel’s NRGene — the only company in the world to map the genome for bread, pasta and wild emmer wheat — has successfully identified a mutation that causes colon cancer, by means of a full analysis of a human family’s genomic profile.
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“We have shown that our software is able to accurately, quickly and in a cheaper way identify genetic abnormalities and mutations in humans,” said Gil Ronen, the CEO and co-founder of NRGene, in a phone interview. “It can now be used to detect other genetic-borne diseases, from a peanuts allergy to cancer, to get early detection and hopefully prevention.”
After successfully and quickly mapping a number of genomes — of wild emmer wheat, the ancestor of commercial wheat known for its ability to withstand harsh environments and diseases, and of bread wheat and other crops and animals, the company is turning its focus to the human genome and human healthcare, which is a much bigger market, Ronen said. This is the first time NRGene’s technology has been used for human genome analysis.
The study, conducted together with Dr. Henle Ji, associate professor of Medicine (Oncology) at Stanford University, surveyed the genetic composition of a family with inherited colon cancer. DNA samples were collected from the grandparents, parents and children in the family, and NRGene’s software looked for the inherited mutation that causes the cancer. The presence of the mutation causes colon cancer in 60 percent of its hosts, Ronen said.
“Stanford had already successfully identified the mutation, but wanted to compare our system with the alternative one they used,” said Ronen. “Usually genetic screening to find mutations can take years and the success rate is low, as you can find several suspect mutations. Uncovering the right mutation takes painstaking work. Our system did it in one week and we got one answer, and it was the right one. It was a perfect match.”
Dr. Ji presented the results of the collaboration with NRGene at the American Society of Human Genetics Conference in Orlando on Wednesday.
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