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Diagnostics Biochemistry and molecular biology, Genetics and epigenetics, Liquid biopsy, Screening and monitoring

Dead Cells Tell Tales

Researchers at Hebrew University have shown that a simple blood test can uncover information about the state of dead cells and, ultimately, detect disease (1). Using cfChIP-seq – sequencing of plasma cell-free nucleosomes – they identified DNA fragments in dying cells to uncover specific pathological changes in patients with metastatic colorectal carcinoma and patients with liver disease.

“We understood that if [epigenetic] information is maintained within the DNA structure in the blood, we could use that data to determine the tissue source of dead cells and the genes that were active in those very cells. Based on those findings, we can uncover key details about the patient’s health,” said Nir Friedman, author on the study (2). “We are able to better understand why the cells died, whether it’s an infection or cancer and, based on that, be better positioned to determine how the disease is developing.”

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  1. R Sadeh et al., Nat Biotechnol, [Online ahead of print] (2021). PMID: 33432199.
  2. AK Leichman (2021). Available at:
About the Author
Liv Gaskill

During my undergraduate degree in psychology and Master’s in neuroimaging for clinical and cognitive neuroscience, I realized the tasks my classmates found tedious – writing essays, editing, proofreading – were the ones that gave me the greatest satisfaction. I quickly gathered that rambling on about science in the bar wasn’t exactly riveting for my non-scientist friends, so my thoughts turned to a career in science writing. At Texere, I get to craft science into stories, interact with international experts, and engage with readers who love science just as much as I do.

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