Andrzej “Andre” Pietrzykowski, assistant professor in the Department of Animal Sciences and an adjunct in the Department of Genetics, was honored by Life Technologies Corporation as an Innovation Grant recipient at the American Society for Human Genetics (ASHG) conference in Boston on Oct. 23. Pietrzykowski was one of only five recipients in the Digital PCR Applications Grant Program to receive a QuantStudio™ 3D Digital PCR System, awarded for “research projects that demonstrated innovative applications in digital polymerase chain reaction (PCR.)”
Scientists from research labs around the world submitted more than 120 applications, from which Life Technologies chose 20 finalist experiments to generate data using the QuantStudio™ 3D Digital PCR System. Pietrzykowski plans to use his system to continue his research on the role of microRNA in the development of alcoholism and on discovering novel genetic and molecular bases of alcoholism.
Pietrzykowski was the only recipient from the U.S. and the only awardee to speak at a special seminar of the ASHG conference, which brought together almost 7,000 researchers dedicated to studying the genetics of human diseases. His talk was titled, “Tapping into precursors – how to uncover alcohol effects on microRNA biogenesis using digital PCR.”
Alcohol is among the most abused substances in the U.S. and worldwide, and carries extremely high costs to the society. “Alcoholism has a strong genetic component but the exact mechanisms of this debilitating disease remain elusive, limiting diagnostic and treatment options,” said Pietrzykowski. “My goal is to improve diagnostic and treatment options for people suffering from this debilitating disease,” he added.
Since the development of polymerase chain reaction by Kary Mullis, a 1993 Nobel Laureate in Chemistry, PCR methodology has undergone multiple improvements, with digital PCR being the most advanced in the field. Digital PCR technology provides unparalleled accuracy and precision, making it possible for single-cell level measurements of nucleic acids. According to Pietrzykowski, the technology has many applications in the study of genetic diseases, cancer, environmental stress and others and has proved an important tool in the emerging fields of personal genomics as well as predictive and precision medicine.