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Ilana Fox Fisher

New Israeli Liquid Biopsy Detects Local Immune Activity and Helps Diagnose a Variety of Diseases

Patients who have undergone biopsies to determine whether they suffer from infectious or autoimmune diseases or growths know that they are very unpleasant and painful.

Our immune systems work hard to keep us healthy and to protect us against bacteria, viruses, fungi, parasites, and cancerous cells. When a patient’s immune system is weakened, he is at risk for diseases and dangerous infections; when they’re overactive, he is at risk for inflammation and autoimmune diseases – so accurate monitoring of immune systems’ activity is vital to health.

At present, the main way to test our immune system’s health is a blood test that counts immune (white blood) cells in the body. If the number comes out higher than normal, it may mean there’s an infection in the body that the immune system is fighting off. But these blood tests often fail to catch immune system activity in the body’s remote tissues, such as those found in bone marrow, lymph nodes, and other organs. In those cases, patients must follow up with invasive measures, such as biopsies and expensive and even potentially harmful imaging devices such as PET/CT scans and MRIs. And even then, such advanced testing doesn’t always detect the problem.

Now, scientists led by Hebrew University of Jerusalem (HUJI) MD/Ph.D. student Ilana Fox-Fisher and Prof. Yuval Dor at the Institute for Medical Research-Israel Canada (IMRIC) have developed a novel method to monitor remote immune processes within those remote tissues and organs. The work, just published in the journal eLife under the title “Remote immune processes revealed by immune-derived circulating cell-free DNA” relies on two basic biological principles. First, dying cells release fragments of DNA into the bloodstream. Second, the DNA of each cell type contains a unique chemical pattern called methylation.

This term refers to a biochemical process involved in a wide range of bodily functions that is vital to our overall well-being. When it is out of balance, it could lead to many different health problems, but certain vitamins can help to support this process to function well.

In biological systems, methylation is catalyzed by enzymes; such methylation can be involved in the modification of heavy metals, regulation of gene expression, regulation of protein function, and RNA processing.

When methylation is going well, the process helps repair the DNA, regulates hormones, produces energy, protects against cancer, supports detoxification, keeps the immune system healthy, supports the protective coating along your nerves, strengthens the nervous system, and more.

Based on these principles, scientists can identify from which tissue the circulating fragments of DNA originated and determine the state of disease. For example, if a patient is battling breast cancer, there will be an elevation of DNA fragments deposited into the bloodstream after a cell dies that originate in breast cells and carry the methylation hallmarks of breast cells. The same is in effect for cardiac DNA fragments during heart attacks. (I365 / VFI News)

“God, we thank You for scientific and medical advancements that allow Your people to live long, healthy lives.”