SPEAKER Q & A

Cambridge Healthtech Institute recently spoke with Dr. Christa Noehammer of the Austrian Institute of Technology about her upcoming presentation, "Circulating Biomarkers and Exosomes in Salivary Diagnostics," taking place at the Enabling Technologies for Cell-Free DNA conference to be held 12-13 April 2017, as part of the 5th International Molecular Diagnostics Europe event in Lisbon, Portugal.

Q: You’re speaking at the Enabling Technologies for Cell-Free DNA conference at Molecular Diagnostics Europe. Can you tell us a little bit more about what you’ll be presenting on?

At the Enabling Technologies for Cell-free DNA conference I will have the pleasure to present some of the research work we are doing at AIT - the Austrian Institute of Technology which among others comprises the investigation of the suitability of saliva for any type of circulating biomarker diagnostics. Along these lines I will show proof of concept data for salivary DNA-methylation - and autoantibody-based biomarkers in a breast cancer patient cohort. In addition I will report on the evaluation of different exosome isolation approaches for use in saliva and serum. Last but not least I will share results from genome-wide DNA-methylation analysis in serum - and saliva-derived exosomes from healthy individuals and present data obtained along genome-wide microRNA analysis from the same sample sources using both microarrays and microRNA Sequencing.

Christa NoehammerChrista Noehammer currently works as Senior Scientist at the Austrian Institute of Technology where she has been heading the Molecular Medicine research unit for several years. Holding a master degree in Microbiology and a PhD in Biochemistry she has been working in the microarray field since 1999 being involved in the design, production and data analysis of various microarray types thereby mainly focusing on minimally invasive biomarker discovery for cancer diagnostics. The last couple of years Dr. Noehammer has been very much involved in the set up of sampling - and biomarker isolation protocols as well as high throughput biomarker technologies for saliva diagnostics. Most recently she now started to work on the discovery of salivary biomarker for breast cancer - and type 2 diabetes diagnostics.

To learn more about her presentation and the Molecular Diagnostics Europe conference, visit MolecularDxEurope.com

Q: What brought you into researching circulating biomarkers in saliva ? Why is it important to be taking research on cfDNA beyond blood samples?

During the last 10 years our team at AIT has successfully identified various kind of circulating biomarkers suitable for disease diagnosis and prognosis from serum and plasma including cell-free DNA-methylation markers and circulating (auto)antibodies. For us like many, many others there is no doubt that blood-based diagnostics will remain the gold standard in the hospital /medical setting. Nevertheless saliva harbors some distinct clinical advantages over other diagnostically relevant body fluids since it represents a completely non-invasive, in large amounts and repeatedly available sample matrix. In addition saliva collection does not require a skilled person, is simple, safe and painless and thus e.g. best suited to be used for both very old and young individuals and applied not only in the clinical/care – but also in the home/lifestyle and work place setting. Along these characteristics saliva holds among others a great potential for future use in population-based screening programs aiming at early disease detection and disease monitoring. Having mentioned all these applications for the human area one should not forget about the advantages saliva brings about in the veterinary - or pet sector when farmers and pet owners would no longer be forced to get/pay the veterinarian to get a sample from their animals for disease diagnosis or health check.

Q: Where do you see this field moving next? Will advanced technologies or different types of biomarkers (RNA, exomes, proteins, etc.) be the next step toward better diagnostics?

I see an exponentially growing interest in microRNAs and non-coding RNAs in general, as novel diagnostic markers. The same applies for exosomes and their content of potential biomarkers ranging from proteins to DNA and RNA. Technology-wise I see next generation sequencing becoming an interesting tool for cell-free body fluid analysis not anymore restricted to mutation analysis of cell-free DNA. Additionally I see a great potential for immuno-PCR based methods such as proximity extension assay technology when it comes to sensitive and specific detection of low abundance proteins in body fluids.

Q: What are you most looking forward to at Enabling Technologies for Cell-Free DNA?

I am very much looking forward to the talks related to circulating DNA analysis in oncology and prenatal testing and to hear from first-hand experience about current opportunities but also bottle necks and limitations of these technologies. I am further curious to learn about SiMSen-Seq, a new and simple method to generate barcoded libraries with minimal DNA input. Naturally I am of course interested in all exosome-related talks of the session Enabling technologies for cell-free DNA.

 

To learn more about her presentation, visit MolecularDxEurope.com