Fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH) is a molecular cytogenetic technique that uses fluorescent probes that bind to only those parts of a nucleic acid sequence with a high degree of sequence complementarity. It was developed by biomedical researchers in the early 1980s to detect and localize the presence or absence of specific DNA sequences on chromosomes. Fluorescence microscopy can be used to find out where the fluorescent probe is bound to the chromosomes. FISH is often used for finding specific features in DNA for use in genetic counseling, medicine, and species identification. FISH can also be used to detect and localize specific RNA targets (mRNA, lncRNA and miRNA) in cells, circulating tumor cells, and tissue samples.

Medical applications

Often parents of children with a developmental disability want to know more about their child’s conditions before choosing to have another child. These concerns can be addressed by analysis of the parents’ and child’s DNA. In cases where the child’s developmental disability is not understood, the cause of it can potentially be determined using FISH and cytogenetic techniques. Examples of diseases that are diagnosed using FISH include Prader-Willi syndrome, Angelman syndrome, 22q13 deletion syndrome, chronic myelogenous leukemia, acute lymphoblastic leukemia, Cri-du-chat, Velocardiofacial syndrome, and Down syndrome. FISH on sperm cells is indicated for men with an abnormal somatic or meiotic karyotype as well as those with oligozoospermia, since approximately 50% of oligozoospermic men have an increased rate of sperm chromosome abnormalities.The analysis of chromosomes 21, X, and Y is enough to identify oligozoospermic individuals at risk

In medicine, FISH can be used to form a diagnosis, to evaluate prognosis, or to evaluate remission of a disease, such as cancer. Treatment can then be specifically tailored. A traditional exam involving metaphase chromosome analysis is often unable to identify features that distinguish one disease from another, due to subtle chromosomal features; FISH can elucidate these differences. FISH can also be used to detect diseased cells more easily than standard Cytogenetic methods, which require dividing cells and requires labor and time-intensive manual preparation and analysis of the slides by a technologist. FISH, on the other hand, does not require living cells and can be quantified automatically, a computer counts the fluorescent dots present. However, a trained technologist is required to distinguish subtle differences in banding patterns on bent and twisted metaphase chromosomes. FISH can be incorporated into Lab-on-a-chip microfluidic device.