Colorado State University’s spin-off company, KromaTiD, announced today the development of the first fluorescent paint designed to color chromatids. The so-called paint, a mixture of fluorescent DNA molecules tailored to a particular chromosome, is the first specifically designed for chromatids – or one side of a chromosome. The process allows scientists to see rearrangements that occur within individual chromosomes. The chromatid paint is the first of its kind and will greatly improve detection of rearrangements, particularly inversions, that are very difficult to detect.
Chromosomes, which are in the nucleus of a cell, are made up of DNA and store a person’s genetic information. A chromatid is one side, or one half of a chromosome. Two chromatids make up one complete chromosome. An inversion is a broken piece of DNA that flips around before rejoining back into the chromosome. Using KromaTiD’s technology, a chromosome inversion will appear as a fluorescent spot that switches from one side – or one chromatid – to the other, providing an easily identifiable visual picture of the rearrangement.
Chromosomal inversions are associated with genetic abnormalities – such as neurological and developmental disorders including autism – and many diseases including cancer. Inversions also occur when someone is exposed to ionizing radiation, a known cause of cancer. KromaTiD’s paint improves detection of inversions by at least 10-fold over current approaches and dramatically increases detection certainty. Chromatid paints can also be used to assess the risk in any individual, such as astronauts exposed to radiation in space.
“Chromatid paints will provide scientists with an easy-to-read test, currently a missing piece to further research pinpointing certain diseases such as cancer, to betterbetter detect specific rearrangements within chromosomes, like inversions. Until now, detecting those inversions has been extremely difficult and often impossible. Once we know where the problem inversions are, we can discover new disease or cancer-related genes and go after them for diagnosis and treatment,” said Susan Bailey, a CSU researcher and a founder of KromaTiD who worked on developing the paint.
“The paint assigns itself to one side of the chromosome depending on its design, then jumps from that side to the other if there is an inversion present,” said Andrew Ray, who also worked to develop the paint. Both Bailey and Ray are scientists in the College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences and Department of Environmental and Radiological Health Sciences.
Currently the company has a chromatid paint for human chromosome number 3, a chromosome made up of 200 million base pairs. The chromatid paint ‘kit’ for that chromosome uses about 200,000 tubes of unique DNA that highlight 200 individual spots along the chromosome. The company is working to develop 22 more paint kits, one for each human chromosome, plus the X and Y. The technology also can be developed for other species such as dogs or horses.
KromaTiD is a startup company based on licensed technology from CSU and the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston. The company is funded primarily through a Small Business Innovation Research Award from NASA. Additional support has come from CSU College Research Council, CSU Research Foundation, CSU Ventures, CSU Cancer Supercluster, Colorado’s Office of Economic Development Bioscience Evaluation Grant Program and the National Institutes of Health.