Agilent Technologies announces life science's first tool for standardized measurement of RNA quality

Method addresses need for RNA standards critical to advancement of cancer and cardiovascular research, therapeutic development

PALO ALTO, Calif., June 7, 2004

Agilent Technologies Inc. (NYSE: A) today introduced the first tool to measure RNA quality and grade it on a quantitative scale of 1 to 10. This measurement, known as the RNA integrity number (RIN), makes it possible for scientists to objectively measure and communicate the quality of RNA used in experiments, a critical need in the development of advanced therapeutics for cancer and cardiovascular disease.

Until now, scientists have been unable to reliably compare the quality of RNA -- a genetic molecule used extensively in biological research -- between experiments or across laboratories. This limitation has greatly inhibited the reproducibility of microarray-based gene expression experiments and real-time polymerase chain reaction (PCR) experiments, both of which are popular in cancer and cardiovascular research. It has also hindered the industry's ability to submit verifiable data from such experiments for FDA review and to apply these technologies to clinical studies, therapeutic development and diagnostic development.

Because RNA quality can affect experiment results and research conclusions, many scientists believe that demonstration of a minimum standard of RNA quality should be a criterion for data submitted to peer-review publications and government agencies, such as the FDA.

"Many people envision a day when cancer diagnosis and treatment will be tailored for each patient by measuring RNA-based gene-expression levels," said Fran DiNuzzo, vice president and general manager of Integrated Biology Solutions at Agilent. "Additionally, interfering RNA (RNAi) is being developed that may provide targeted gene-based therapies that leave other cellular functions alone, thus reducing unintended and unwanted side effects. The advancement of these applications begs for an industry standard for determining whether the RNA isolated from a tissue sample is of good quality. Agilent has developed the RNA integrity number as the first scale to provide this."

RINs are assigned to sample RNA using new, neural-network based software that works with the Agilent 2100 Bioanalyzer and RNA Nano LabChip® kits to assess RNA quality. The RIN software helps scientists measure the integrity of total RNA samples from eukaryotic (not viral or bacterial) organisms.

How It Works (Photos)

Researchers deposit their total RNA sample into an RNA Nano LabChip. The chip is inserted into the Agilent Bioanalyzer, which runs the analysis and generates a digital electropherogram. The new RIN algorithm then analyzes the entire electrophoretic trace of the RNA sample, including the presence or absence of degradation products, to determine sample integrity. It assigns a 1 to 10 RIN score, where level 10 RNA is completely intact. Because interpretation of the electropherogram is automatic and not subject to individual interpretation, universal and unbiased comparison of samples is enabled and repeatability of experiments is improved.

The RIN algorithm was developed using neural networks and adaptive learning in conjunction with a large database of eukaryote total RNA samples, which were obtained mainly from human, rat and mouse tissues. The RIN score is largely independent of the amount of RNA used and the origin of the eukaryote RNA sample.

Scientific Impact

The concept of the RIN has been presented at various scientific meetings, including ABRF (Portland, Ore.), AACR (Orlando, Fla.), qPCR (Munich, Germany), and HUGO (Berlin), and has been welcomed enthusiastically by the scientific community. More than 70 customers downloaded the new software the first day it became available.

"The introduction of Agilent's RNA integrity number is a milestone for the field of gene expression," said David Ginzinger, director of the Genome Analysis Core Laboratory, Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University of California, San Francisco. "It is the first practical and reliable standard for measuring RNA quality and allows us to finally compare experimental results and determine what we feel are acceptable standards for RNA quality. Within a year, it will most likely become common practice for researchers to list RINs for their RNA in major peer-reviewed publications."

While the RIN scale provides an objective measure of RNA quality, it does not predefine an "acceptable" level of quality. It is anticipated that those standards will be defined over time by research and medical communities through scientific papers. Those standards are likely to vary per sample type and experiment type.

In addition to improving the reproducibility and comparison of RNA-based experiments across the industry, it is anticipated that reagent companies may adopt the RIN scale to measure and advertise the quality of RNA sold or to assess its quality pre- and post-shipping.


RIN software is immediately available at no cost to the more than 2,500 laboratories worldwide who already use the Agilent Bioanalyzer. Agilent Bioanalyzer customers can download a free beta version of the RIN software at RIN software will not be fully supported by Agilent until the end of 2004, at which time the software will be available for purchase as part of a formal Bioanalyzer software upgrade.

Laboratories that want to purchase a Bioanalyzer can find more information online at

About Agilent Technologies

Agilent Technologies Inc. (NYSE: A) is a global technology leader in communications, electronics, life sciences and chemical analysis. The company's 28,000 employees serve customers in more than 110 countries. Agilent had net revenue of $6.1 billion in fiscal year 2003. Information about Agilent is available on the Web at

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LabChip and the LabChip logo are registered trademarks of Caliper Life Sciences, Inc., in the U.S. and other countries.


Christina Maehr
+1 408 553-7205