Size and Concentration of Cell-Free DNA Measured Directly from Blood Plasma, without Prior DNA Extraction
Cell-free DNA in human blood plasma (cfDNA) is now widely used and studied as a biomarker for several physiological and pathological situations. In addition to genetic and epigenetic alterations that provide information about the presence and the nature of non-constitutive DNA in the body, cfDNA concentration and size distribution may potentially be independent biomarkers suitable for monitoring at-risk patients and therapy efficacy. Here, we describe a simple, in-line, method, which measures cfDNA concentration and size distribution from only a few microliters of plasma without the need to extract and/or concentrate the DNA prior to the analysis. This method is based on a dual hydrodynamic and electrokinetic actuation, adapted for samples containing salts and proteins such as biological fluids. The method provides analytical performances equivalent to those obtained after purification and concentration of cfDNA, with a precision of ∼1% for size features and of 10−20% for the concentrations of the different size fractions. We show that concentration and size distribution of cfDNA analyzed from plasma can differentiate advanced lung cancer patients from healthy controls. This simple and cost-effective method should facilitate further investigations into the potential clinical usefulness of cfDNA size profiling.