WORCESTER, Mass. Researchers at the University of Massachusetts Medical School (UMMS) report today on a new technique that improves the ability of scientists to target individual genes for inactivationa technique with broad potential implications for both basic science research and human disease. Two scientific teams at UMMS, one led by Scot A. Wolfe, PhD, an assistant professor in the Program in Gene Function & Expression and the Department of Biochemistry & Molecular Pharmacology, and the other by Nathan D. Lawson, PhD, an associate professor in the Program in Gene Function and Expression and the Program in Molecular Medicine, working with a small fishthe zebrafishcommonly used as a model organism in biomedical research, developed a method to create and deliver a tailor-made restriction enzyme that inactivates a specific gene in a zebrafish embryo.
The paper, Targeted gene inactivation in zebrafish using engineered zinc-finger nucleases appears as an Advance Online Publication of the journal Nature Biotechnology (25 May, 2008; http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/nbt1398 ), and was supported by grants from the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute and the National Institute of General Medical Sciences.
The best way to figure out what a gene does in an organism is to replace it with a non-functional version, breed the individual, and then look at the offspring to see whats wrong with them, said Laurie Tompkins, Ph.D., who oversees genetic mechanisms grants at the National Institute of General Medical Sciences, The problem is that its hard to swap in non-functional genes that are inherited by the offspring. These investigators have devised a way to do this, which will enable many scientists to answer questions that were previously out of reach.
We believe that this work will fundamentally change how researchers make knockoutsresearch organisms in which one or more genes have been genetically engineered to be turned offin many model organisms
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University of Massachusetts Medical School