Fluorescent Paint To Uncover Cancer?

CSU Scientists Develop 'Paint' To Identify Inversions

Colorado scientists said they believe they have found the first steps to uncover the unknowns of cancer.

Watch the story tonight on 7NEWS at 10 p.m.

KromaTid, a Colorado State University spin-off company, developed one of the first fluorescent “paint” designed to color chromatids -- one side of the chromosome.

The purpose is to identify inversions -- a flipping around of DNA.

"It is hard to describe how much information is contained in a human chromosome," said Erin Zimmerman, an employee of KromaTid.

Chromosomal rearrangements and inversions occur when the body is exposed to certain things, such as radiation from an X-ray. The chromosomes can be damaged and break and when they re-attach, they can be out-of-place.

"A lot of these chromosome rearrangements are associated with a lot of different disease states, like cancer," said Susan Bailey, of KromaTid. Scientists and researchers have been able to identify some chromosomal abnormalities -- the big ones. But small inversions, have not been visible, until now.

"We are at the very beginning of a very exciting phase of our development," said Andy Ray, of KromaTid.

Three Colorado State University professors formed KromaTid, Incorporated, a bio-science company that studies chromosomes. A grant from NASA allowed it to develop the "paint."

When an inversion occurs, the fluorescent "paint" can be seen on the other side of the chromatid.

"The first time we were able to look down and see this paint work, it was just one of the best moments I have ever had," said Zimmerman.

"In the long run the hope would be that you could identify the cancer related gene that was associated with a particular cancer," said Bailey. "Then a drug could be developed to target that particular gene, that defective gene, and cure the cancer."

It's already been done with what's called the Philadelphia chromosome -- where part of chromosomes 9 and 22 swap places. The result is a type of leukemia. Since researchers know where the change occurs on the chromosome, they can target it to cure it.

"We are definitely heading toward individualized cancer treatment," said Ray.

Currently, KromaTid has only developed "paint" for one chromosome, but the company plans to develop paint for the remaining 23 chromosome types.

Ray said once that is done, scientists will truly understand why different diseases and cancer occur in different people and how to treat them. Ray and Bailey said this could even uncover why women are infertile or miscarry.

"The families are desperate to find out what is going on and they might want to look for an inversion in the cells that are in there," said Ray.

This is a microscopic discovery that could lead to massive changes.