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Updated 8:00 AM March 9, 2009

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Chemist, life sciences company patent new biological assay

U-M chemist Ray Trievel and two scientists at Luminos LLC have filed a patent application for a novel method to detect enzymes that can alter DNA molecules, sometimes leading to the onset and progression of various cancers.

Demethylase enzymes remove methyl groups attached to DNA, proteins and toxins. They have become a target of intense interest among biomedical researchers.

The two known classes of demethylase enzymes produce formaldehyde as the product of the reaction. Classical methods for detecting that formaldehyde involve the use of radioactive substrates.

Trievel and his colleagues found a new way to detect the formaldehyde.

Their technique allows demethylase activity to be determined by the addition of a single reagent that produces a fluorescent signal in direct proportion to the amount of formaldehyde produced. Kits based on the technology will be available by the spring of 2009.

"Enzymatic demethylation of protein and DNA has emerged as an important pathway for regulating gene expression and other genomic processes," Trievel says. The process has been implicated in the onset and progression of various forms of cancer, underscoring the biomedical importance of these enzymes.

"The development of this formaldehyde-detection assay will furnish a novel high-throughput method for identifying, characterizing and optimizing inhibitors against histone demethylases and other formaldehyde-generating enzymes of pharmaceutical importance."

Luminos LLC was founded in Ann Arbor in 2007. The company develops novel life science products for the detection of important biological molecules.

"This method makes the detection of the activity of this important group of enzymes a simple process that can be done on multiple samples at one time using instrumentation already in place for low-, medium- or high-throughput screening," says Russell Hart, a Luminos founder.

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