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China Makes Gene Chip to Test Early Leukemia

Chinese medical scientists have developed a high-tech gene chip for detecting an abnormal syndrome in blood which may possibly cause leukemia.

As one of the 10 fatal diseases in China with a high incidence rate, leukemia is severely threatening people's health. The means to diagnose leukemia at present simply include a microscopic examination of a person's blood, bone marrow biopsy and chromosome examination.

Meanwhile, the precision of these examinations is limited and misdiagnosis often occurs.

Zhao Dawei, a medical expert working on the researching and development of the gene chip, explained that the chip is fixed with special probes which can sensitively inspect those abnormal molecules.

According to Zhao, through inspection, doctors can find leukemia viruses in blood, cell chromosomal translocation, oncogene expression and mutational genes in cells.

Based on this, the experts can thereby conclude that if someone has contracted leukemia or is a potential leukemia patient.

Moreover, doctors can be guided to prescribe according to the gene chip diagnosis.

The gene chip testing operation is simple. Doctors only need to test a little blood sample drawn from the patients and then an accurate result can be obtained, Zhao said.

Clinical tests carried out in a number of major hospitals across the country show that gene chip inspection is quite precise compared with the traditional way.

At least six transnational corporations in the world are carrying out a series of research and development projects in the field of gene chip technology to provide an early warning for the disease and treatment of leukemia, but few have made such fruitful results, according to Zhao.

Chinese scientists started the research early in 1998 and have developed a number of specific inspecting gene chips on leukemia viruses, chromosomal translocation, oncogene expression and mutational oncogenes respectively.

On the basis of these early achievements, they worked out three comprehensive gene chip technology to provide an early warning for leukemia, Zhao said. Further research and development on five more similar comprehensive gene chips are under way.

The gene chip that detects leukemia drew much attention from medical experts as well as business people at home and abroad at a high-tech exhibition hosted recently in Chinese capital Beijing.

It is a breakthrough to apply gene science and technology in the field of leukemia diagnosis at an early stage, said Pei Xiasheng, director of the high-tech research and development center under the Ministry of Science and Technology.

The gene chip technology will also have a strong influence on China's bio-tech industry, Pei added.

(Xinhua 04/04/2001)

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