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First 'atlas' of key brain genes could speed research on cancer, neurological diseases

ced online where it is freely accessible to researchers studying brain development and disorders. To compile the atlas, the investigators first sifted through databases of information from the Human Genome Project, singling out all genes in the mouse that appeared to be transcription factors: they turned up 1,445 of them. Next, they determined that more than 1,000 of these TF’s were expressed in the brains of developing mice. Using genetic probes to investigate thin sections of mouse brains, the scientists found that only 349 of the TF genes were expressed in specific regions, and not throughout the brain, as the majority were. They inferred that these 349 genes, therefore, controlled the development of the particular areas or structures in which they were uniquely expressed. Stiles is pursuing TF’s that direct the formation of astrocytes, which are affected in tumors called gliomas. David Rowitch, MD, PhD, of Dana-Farber and an author on the paper, studies transcription factors in the brain’s cerebellum, where tumors called medulloblastomas occur, and Ma has identified TF’s that regulate the nerves involved in the sensation of specific types of pain. Ma’s laboratory is focused on the stubborn problem of cancer pain: He and his students are screening the atlas for transcription factors that regulate development of the neurons that generate the severe pain that is a common symptom of metastatic tumors. The research was funded by the Charles Dana Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, and individual fellowships. Dana-Farber Cancer Institute is a principal teaching affiliate of the Harvard Medical School and is among the leading cancer research and care centers in the United States. It is a founding member of the Dana-Farber/Harvard Cancer Center (DF/HCC), designated a comprehensive cancer center by the National Cancer Institute.
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Source:Dana-Farber Cancer Institute


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