Integrating microarrays into disease-gene identification strategies

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Positional cloning represents one of the most successful paradigm shifts in identifying the underlying patho-mechanisms in human disease. While traditional discovery tools focused on identifying defects at the tissue or cellular level, positional cloning identifies the damaged region of the genome as the preliminary step. While a large number of inherited single gene disorders have been mapped using this approach, a bottleneck still exists in combing through the genomic interval, often millions of nucleotides in length, to identify the nucleotide changes which result in a defective protein and subsequent disease. Along with the recent unravelling of the human genetic code, the development of massively parallel tools, such as microarrays, represent an equally important step forward in unraveling pathogenic genome dysfunctions. There are many emerging variants on microarray technology, such as expression arrays, exon arrays, array-based comparative genomic hybridization and sequencing arrays. Several of these platforms, if used properly, can accelerate the positional cloning process. The proper use of the platform is driven by knowledge of the underlying molecular defect being searched for and the operating characteristics of the array. The resultant insight forms the basis for improved molecular diagnostics and novel therapeutic targets.

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