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Gene discovery made easier with powerful new networking technique
Date:1/29/2008

AUSTIN, TexasThe identification of disease-causing genes will be much easier and faster using a powerful new gene-networking model developed by researchers at The University of Texas at Austin.

Edward Marcotte and his colleague, postdoctoral researcher Insuk Lee, used the gene network technique to identify new genes that regulate life span and are involved in tumor development in the nematode worm.

In collaboration with Andrew Frasers group at The Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, the researchers manipulated the newly found genes and were able to extend the lives of the worms by 55 percent and reverse the onset of tumors.

Marcotte hopes to extend the technique to identifying genes for disease and other disorders in humans. The human genome has been sequenced, but very little is known about what more than half of about 20,000 genes do.

This is a big step forward in the rational discovery of disease genes, says Marcotte, a professor in the Institute for Cellular and Molecular Biology. We can use this gene modeling technique to predict the function of new genes and then run experiments to confirm the findings.

The process could greatly improve our ability to pinpoint specific genes involved in disease and aid in the development of drugs.

Marcottes research was published January 27 online in Nature Genetics.

Gene networks are models of the connections between all of the genes within an organism, and Marcotte uses them like an online social network. He learns what new genes do by the genes connections to others in the network, much like people use online social networking systems to connect with friends and others with similar interests.

You can think of it like six degrees of separation or a Facebook.com for genes, says Marcotte. If you know of a few genes and what they do, their friends probably do something similar, and we can find these through the network.

To build the worm gene ne
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Contact: Edward Marcotte
marcotte@icmb.utexas.edu
512-471-5435
University of Texas at Austin
Source:Eurekalert

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