Oxford Nanopore tech used in ‘groundbreaking’ telomere study

Oxford Nanopore took the wraps off a “groundbreaking” study using its technology on Friday, shedding light on the measurement of human telomeres – the protective caps at the ends of chromosomes crucial for genome integrity.

The London-listed firm said the breakthrough, published in the journal Science, was a significant advancement in understanding the correlation between telomeres and age-related diseases, as well as cancer susceptibility.

Led by Nobel laureate Dr Carol Greider of UC Santa Cruz, the research represented the first successful attempt to precisely measure and profile telomere length using Oxford Nanopore’s sequencing technology.

Dr Greider envisioned the telomeric regions, along with associated proteins, as potential targets for preventive healthcare interventions and drug discovery initiatives.

The company explained that decades of scientific inquiry, including research spearheaded by Dr Greider, established the pivotal role of telomeres in health and disease.

Short telomeres were linked to degenerative conditions, while long telomeres could predispose individuals to cancer.

Despite that understanding, the intricate mechanisms governing telomere length regulation had thus far remained elusive.

In the study, the team analysed telomere lengths in 147 individuals, uncovering a pattern where specific telomeres consistently exhibited either the shortest or longest lengths.

The observation suggested that certain chromosome ends with shorter telomeres could be implicated in triggering stem-cell failure, offering insights for further clinical investigation and potential drug development.

Central to the breakthrough was Oxford Nanopore’s technology, which enabled the observation of long telomere-length reads at nearly single nucleotide resolution for the first time.

The firm said the capability had sparked a surge of interest in telomere-based research, exemplified by the development of a novel workflow called Telo-seq, jointly pioneered by Oxford Nanopore and the Karlseder lab at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in November last year.

“Today marks a significant milestone not just for Oxford Nanopore but for the field of genomics,” said chief executive officer Gordon Sanghera.

“This breakthrough illustrates that what you’re missing matters in genomics, showcasing the benefits of richer insights to capture more types of genetic variation and unravel the mysteries of biology.”

Sanghera said it was also a step towards new healthcare solutions, offering novel avenues for preventing and treating age-related diseases and cancer.

“We are proud to be at the forefront of this research, empowering scientists worldwide with tools that unlock unprecedented genomic insight.”

At 1450 BST, shares in Oxford Nanopore Technologies were down 0.04% at 108.7p.

Reporting by Josh White for Sharecast.com.

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