AUGUSTA, Ga. (WJBF) – A new technology being used at the Medical College of Georgia and Augusta University Medical Center is changing how doctors test patients for cancer.

Optical Genome Mapping allows doctors to see our DNA in higher resolutions. As a result, it also has the potential to improve patient outcomes.

“This, I would say, is a very paradigm shift in the way we are looking at the genome on the chromosome level,” said Dr. Ravindra Kolhe, professor of pathology and interim chair of the department of pathology at the Medical College of Georgia.

Traditionally, a technique called karyotyping has been used to get a closer look at our genetic makeup. 

But according to Dr. Kolhe- the associate director of genomics at the Georgia Cancer Center- this technology is very low resolution compared to optical genome mapping.

“So, this is like a Hubble telescope – it’s literally 20,000 times more resolution than all the technologies we were using until now,” said Dr. Kolhe.

With optical genome mapping – or OGM – doctors are now able to place DNA inside an instrument that takes more detailed images of genetic material.  

When Dr. Kolhe was introduced to the technique, he saw it could identify chromosomal variants in cancer patients where karyotyping could not. 

“We have done everything we would need to make sure this technology is on par with the standards we have created to bring in any new technology in the clinical labs, said Dr. Kolhe. “And last week we went live with our first patient on leukemia.”

The accuracy of OGM allows doctors to cut the waiting time for results by more than 10 days. 

And since OGM can replace up to three forms of testing used in cancer diagnosis, it can also reduce testing costs.

“The amount of information we will get from these technologies will not only make us diagnose cancers better, classify them and then come up with a better prognosis so that the treating patient- the patient which we are treating- can get quicker and better treatment options,” said Dr. Kolhe.

Dr. Kolhe notes that other countries are currently using optical genome mapping. He hopes that Georgia Cancer Center’s use of OGM for patient care will only be the beginning of its use in the United States.