`Painted' Genes May Light The Way To Cancer's Source

The genetic messages written in DNA and embedded in the 23 pairs of human chromosomes can help researchers treat cancer: Identifying chromosomal abnormalities that may give rise to particular forms of cancer can help doctors more precisely develop and aim their treatments. But because of the time and expenseinvolved, chromosomal studies figure in the diagnosis and treatment of just 10% of the 1.2 million cancer cases reported in the U. S. each year.

Now, scientists at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory may point the way to an easier, more economical way to spot abnormalities in DNA. They have developed special dyes, dubbed Whole Chromosome Paints. These fluorescent chemicals "light up" individual chromosomes within cells and make possible a more accurate diagnosis for cancers such as leukemia. Imagenetics in Naperville, Ill., will commercialize the painting technique, which it hopes will also light up the understanding of the genetic underpinnings of cancer.