FLORENCE, Italy, 20th October, 2015 –Today marks the day on which the Menarini Pharmaceutical Group donated an innovative research instrument to Florence’s Meyer Children’s Hospital. The DEPArray™ System will allow the hospital’s pediatric oncology and neuroscience departments, headed by Claudio Favre and Renzo Guerrini, respectively, to conduct cutting-edge research. Each of their teams will be able to use the instrument to select and recover pure single cells, isolating them in several sample types such as blood, bone marrow, pleural fluid, and solid tissue biopsy.
The installation of the DEPArray system has opened up a new era in pediatric oncology and neurological research on epilepsy at Meyer. The instrument is unique and precise, and allows research teams to reveal even the most secret genetic mechanisms that lie within tumor cells, paving the way towards increasingly more personalized therapies that are by their very nature more effective.
The installation of the DEPArray system at the Meyer Children’s Hospital will allow researchers to carry out in-depth studies on both circulating tumor cells and pediatric solid tumors for a greater knowledge of the genetics of cancer.
The DEPArray system is the only system capable of automatically isolating single, rare cells suspended in a number of different sample fluids. Circulating tumor cells, which can be found in blood samples, can be isolated and maintained intact, live and reproducible for genetic analysis. The system is extremely precise in selecting cells and is capable of selecting even single cells, allowing 100% pure cell preparations.
“Thanks to the DEPArray system, we can isolate and select even very small quantities of pure circulating tumour cells,” explained Favre. “These cells can provide us with important information as biomarkers for the evaluation of metastatic disease. In addition, we can also gain a better understanding of the biological nature and the level of tumor aggressiveness, as well as being able to draw up a molecular profile for each individual patient so as to devise a personalized course of therapy better aimed at attacking the target cells.”
Another field of research in which this system can be applied is the study of the role played by the immune system in the post-transplant stage through an analysis of biopsy tissues of the intestine. Favre added, “Our objective is to single out potential biological markers capable of foreseeing the onset of a dysregulation of the immune system or its degree of impairment so as to control the course of the disease.”
In the Department of Neuroscience the DEPArray system will be used for epilepsy studies. “We shall be using this innovative system to extract DNA from cells that have been isolated within a number of different tissue samples, and particularly from brain cells taken from subjects who have undergone neurosurgery to treat their epilepsy,” Guerrini explained. “We intend to study the genetic mutations responsible for the changes in the morphological and functional characteristics of the neurons that are the reasons behind epilepsy.”
Research carried out different study groups around the world, including the team from Meyer, appears to corroborate the theory that epilepsy and a number of other brain malformations often originate from genetic alterations found in a limited number of brain cells. This phenomenon, called “mosaicism,” can only be investigated if one has direct access to brain cells to carry out high-resolution sequencing studies on the DNA found in these cells.
Alberto Zanobini, Director General of the Meyer Children’s Hospital in Florence, said, “Thanks to the donation made by the Menarini Group, our hospital may now widen its horizons and open up new frontiers in the scientific research of the mechanisms behind epilepsy and the onset of tumors. Through this project we have forged a meaningful co-operation between an esteemed Italian company and our pediatric hospital, adopting world class technology of the highest level.”
Lucia Aleotti, President of The Menarini Group, said, “We are here today to donate to the city’s Meyer pediatric hospital, an exemplar of Italian excellence among children’s hospitals, a system that is built upon a technology of great promise, born out of the research of two Italian engineers who united the potential of electronic engineering with biology to create a digital system for the management of human cells. The DEPArray system has been installed in top-level research centres in Europe, in the USA and Japan, and to be able to confer one of our systems into the expert hands of the researchers at Meyer is a source of great pride for us. This technology is capable of providing clear results in the genetic analyses of complex tumor tissue samples in young patients at Meyer. DEPArray allows researchers to get a better understanding of the genetics that lie behind tumour cells by providing them with results that are precise even in those cases where conventional methods fail, due to a poor cancer cell population in the blood sample, a sample which is too small to analyze, or the tumor cells in the biopsy tissue are simply not enough.”
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