New center sets out to stop disease before it starts | News Center

“A big part of the challenge is that cell-free DNA in and of itself hasn’t been deeply studied yet. What we’re looking for here are really needles in haystacks — rare molecules that have been shed from somewhere in the body,” Curtis said. “There’s still a question surrounding what the makeup of a healthy individual looks like, so we’re working on understanding that too, because without that, we have no meaningful reference.”

The future of PHIND

Technology, however, can only advance as far as researchers’ understanding of biology enables it. “The smart toilet, which is being developed in my lab, can’t work miracles if it doesn’t know what to look for in the urine. It’s not a crystal ball; it has to know what biomarker(s) to detect,” said Gambhir, the Virginia and D.K. Ludwig Professor for Clinical Investigation in Cancer Research. “That’s why we need more people on the basic biology side to understand the early changes as cells transition from normal to ill cells.”

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