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Meet DNA's personal assistants
Date:5/7/2009

Just as scientists finished sequencing the human genome, they got a new surprise. Inside the genetic pathway, where DNA produces proteins to sustain life, they found microRNA. These tiny ubiquitous molecules have opened a new research channel in biology, allowing scientists to more closely examine what causes genetic diseases, and what makes our cells tick.

"This is a pivotal mechanism for solving genetic diseases," says Dr. Noam Shomron of the Faculty of Medicine at Tel Aviv University. "It's like the Gold Rush in the 1800s ― everywhere we look we find microRNAs."

Taking all this valuable information ― some 700 microRNA's are now indexed ― and condensing it all on a biological "DNA chip" that looks like a common scientific slide, Dr. Shomron is helping scientists the world over understand what role microRNA plays in skin, cervical and brain cancer, leukemia, HIV, depression, and schizophrenia.

A Worldwide Reach

Utilizing his basic research, Dr. Shomron developed a popular online tool that Harvard, MIT, and Yale researchers are regularly referencing to "see" what kinds of microRNAs appear in the human and other genomes. "It's like looking at the globe for first time from outer space. It's the only tool that profiles microRNA in visuals," he says.

"I am helping scientists find the microRNA fingerprint," says Dr. Shomron, who started this work at MIT. "Using the DNA chip I've built, scientists can scan all human microRNAs at the same time and associate them with various pathologies. This gives them volumes of new information about the diseases they are studying."

How It Works

Each cell in our bodies has the instructions needed for building cells identical to it encoded in its DNA. RNA is "photocopied" from DNA in the cells, and from these instructions new proteins, machines that carry out orders in the body, are built.

But somewhere along the way, the phot
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Contact: George Hunka
ghunka@aftau.org
212-742-9070
American Friends of Tel Aviv University
Source:Eurekalert  

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