Centre d'immunologie de Marseille-Luminy, BP 9, 13288 Marseille Cedex 9.
The Human Genome Project has allowed considerable progress in the construction of physical and genetic maps and the identification of genes involved in human sicknesses. The accelerated accumulation of biological information and knowledge is due in large part to the sequencing projects of other organisms, which in fact paved the way for the Human Genome Project. In parallel, recently developed techniques which take advantage of genomic sequences allow large scale molecular analyses resulting in the functional annotation of many of the proteins represented by these genes. This is the goal of functional genomics. These progresses are at the origin of the present revolution in biomedical research. DNA microarrays are playing a dominant role compared to the other developing technologies since they are relatively easy to make and use and are applicable to numerous scientific inquiries. They allow the simultaneous analysis of several thousands of genes in biological samples from sick or healthy tissues, at the genome or transcriptome level. The data obtained is expected to result in major advances in the health sciences. In addition to an improved understanding of the complex molecular interaction networks of healthy cells and tissues, a more precise genetic characterization of the molecular mechanisms involved in pathology should result in the identification of new therapeutic targets and the development of new medicines. The genetic profiles thus obtained should also permit the definition of new pathologic subclasses not recognizable by traditional clinical factors, as well as new markers for susceptibility to certain illnesses, and new prognostic markers or methods of predicting responses to treatment. In this article, we present the different approaches and potential applications of DNA microarray technology, in particular as applied to cancer research.