The human genome project was successful in sequencing the entire human genome and ended earlier than expected. The vast genetic information now available will have far-reaching consequences for medicine in the twenty-first century. The knowledge gained from the mapping and sequencing of human genes on a genome-wide scale - commonly referred to as structural genomics - is prerequisite for studies that focus on the functional aspects of genes. A recently invented technique, known as gene chip, or DNA microarray, technology, allows the study of the function of thousands of genes at once, thereby opening the door to the new field of functional genomics. At its core, the DNA microarray utilizes a unique feature of DNA known as complementary hybridization. As such, it is not different from Southern (DNA) blot or northern (RNA) blot hybridizations, or the polymerase chain reaction, with the exception that it allows expression profiling of the entire human genome in a single hybridization experiment. The article highlights the principles, technology, and applications of DNA microarrays as they pertain to the field of dermatology and dermatopathology. The most important applications are the gene expression profiling of skin cancer, especially of melanoma. Other potential applications include gene expression profiling of inflammatory skin diseases, the mutational analysis of genodermatoses, and polymorphism screening, as well as drug development and chemosensitivity prediction. cDNA microarrays will shape the diagnostic approach of the dermatology and the dermatopathology of the future and may lead to new therapeutic options.
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