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About The Cell-Free DNA (cfDNA)


A notable advancement in medical science has emerged in recent years through the discovery of cell-free Deoxyribonucleic Acid (cfDNA), carrying significant implications for disease detection, diagnosis, and treatment.


GS III: Science and Technology

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Cell-Free DNA (cfDNA)
  2. Applications of Cell-Free DNA (cfDNA)

Cell-Free DNA (cfDNA):

  • Definition: Cell-free DNA (cfDNA) refers to fragments of DNA that exist outside of cells and can be found in various body fluids.
  • Presence: Unlike the majority of DNA that is enclosed within cells, cfDNA is released into the extracellular environment under different circumstances, such as cell death or other cellular processes.
  • Historical Knowledge: Scientists have been aware of cfDNA since 1948, but it is only in the last two decades that they have begun to understand its potential applications.
  • Genetic Information: The cfDNA fragments contain genetic information, making them valuable for studying a person’s health status, potential diseases, and genetic variations.
  • Insights into Health: Analyzing cfDNA can provide insights into an individual’s health condition, allowing for early detection of diseases and monitoring of treatment effectiveness.

Applications of Cell-Free DNA (cfDNA):

  • Non-Invasive Prenatal Testing (NIPT): cfDNA analysis is used for screening chromosomal abnormalities in developing fetuses, including conditions like Down syndrome. NIPT replaces invasive procedures, reducing risks for expectant mothers and fetuses.
  • Early Cancer Detection: cfDNA sequencing, as seen in the ‘GEMINI’ test, allows for the early detection of cancers like lung cancer with high accuracy. Combining cfDNA analysis with existing methods improves overall cancer detection.
  • Organ Transplant Monitoring: Donor-derived cfDNA helps monitor the health and acceptance of transplanted organs. Fluctuations in cfDNA levels can indicate organ rejection or acceptance before other markers become evident, enabling timely intervention.
  • Biomarker for Neurological Disorders: cfDNA analysis aids in diagnosing and monitoring neurological disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease, neuronal tumors, and stroke.
  • Biomarker for Metabolic Disorders: cfDNA has the potential to detect and manage metabolic disorders like type-2 diabetes and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.
  • Disease Research and Monitoring: Researchers use cfDNA analysis to study disease mechanisms, monitor treatment effectiveness, and gain insights into disease pathways. The versatility of cfDNA applications enhances understanding of complex diseases and their genetic factors.

-Source: The Hindu

February 2024