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Research teams at Hebrew University, University of Kentucky win Israel-US science award

Jerusalem, May 23, 2011 -- Research teams at the University of Kentucky and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem have won a prestigious $300,000 award from the USIsrael Binational Science Foundation (BSF) for a new program devoted to transformative science

The BSF defines transformative science as "research driven by ideas that have potential to radically change our understanding of an important scientific concept, or lead to the creation of a new paradigm, or a new field of science. Such research is also characterized by its challenge to current understanding or by its pathways to new frontiers."

A collaborative research proposal entitled "Regulation of alternative splicing by small non-coding RNAs," was submitted by the groups of Prof. Ruth Sperling of the Alexander Silberman Institute of Life Sciences at the Hebrew University and Prof. Stefan Stamm at the University of Kentucky in Lexington. This was one of two programs awarded in the first round of the US-Israel BSF Transformative Science award.

The collaborative research aims to investigate how organisms regulate the readout of their genomic information. It is currently not known how the genetic information, stored in DNA, is interpreted to allow the formation of an organism.

The team will investigate the role of a new class of short forms of ribonucleic acids (RNA) molecules that are directly made from DNA, the molecule that stores the genomic information. They will investigate the role of these molecules that are expressed only in the nucleus of cells in controlling and coordinating the expression of genetic information in a biological meaningful way.

The group will concentrate on a brain receptor that controls appetite and food uptake. The assumption is that small RNA molecules are the master controllers that determine what genes are used.

This new concept could change the current thinking that gene expression is mainly dictated by regulatory proteins, and open the way to study the role of small non-coding RNAs in nuclear gene regulation.

This work could help to understand how the information in the genome is used to build an organism. It will be useful to design therapies against human diseases, for example to design drugs that suppress appetite. The verification of this assumption would open a new chapter in molecular biology.


Contact: Jerry Barach
The Hebrew University of Jerusalem

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