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Consortium develops new method to manipulate genetic material
Date:7/24/2008

MINNEAPOLIS / ST. PAUL (July 24, 2008) A multi-institutional team of researchers, including scientists at the University of Minnesota Medical School, have developed a powerful tool for genomic research and medicine. The robust method will allow researchers to generate synthetic enzymes that can target and manipulate DNA sequences for inactivation or repair.

The potential for discovery is great, said Dan Voytas, Ph.D., director of the Arnold and Mabel Beckman Center for Transposon Research, and co-investigator on the research. In human therapeutics, researchers may aim to correct genetic disorders or diseases, and in plants, scientists may devise crops that are more resistant to pathogens, yield more product, and better combat stress.

In the July 25 issue of Molecular Cell, researchers including Voytas describe an efficient method to induce specific genomic modifications in many types of cells including plants and humans. This is the first time the method will be publicly available and free to researchers.

"This method is going to be a turning point in the way we manipulate genomes," Voytas said. "It will allow any researcher to make a change to genetic material."

More specifically, the article shows researchers how to engineer customized zinc-finger nucleases (ZFNs), which can be used to induce specific genomic modifications in many types of cells.

"Recent work has shown that ZFNs can alter genes with high efficiency in cells from plants or model organisms like fruit flies, roundworms, and zebra fish, and in human cells," said J. Keith Joung, M.D., Ph.D., assistant professor of pathology at Harvard Medical School and director of the Molecular Pathology Unit at MGH, principal investigator of the study. "Our method will enable academic researchers to rapidly create high quality ZFNs for genes of interest and will stimulate use of this technology in biological research and potentially gene therapy."

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Contact: Nick Hanson
hans2853@umn.edu
612-624-2449
University of Minnesota
Source:Eurekalert

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