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Powerful new tool for studying brain development

s and show where and when specific genes are expressed at each of four developmental stages. Gene expression is visible because special tags called probes bind to messenger RNA (mRNA)--the decoded form of the gene--and release a signal that can be seen using a special microscope. Gene expression refers to the production of mRNA, which becomes the blueprint the cell uses to make the protein coded for by that gene.

The BGEM links these images with the most up-to-date information on those genes, such as their function, location on chromosomes and exact DNA sequence. The BGEM gathers this information through direct links to the scientific databases PubMed, LocusLink, Unigene and the Gene Ontology Consortium, which is housed at the National Center for Biotechnology Information in the National Library of Medicine. In turn, the BGEM images are used by the Gene Expression Nervous System Atlas (GENSAT), which seeks to document the expression of all genes in the nervous system. GENSAT is supported by the National Institute of Neurological Diseases and Stroke (NINDS), and a partnership of 14 institutes and centers of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), which have formed a consortium to accelerate breakthroughs in understanding the nervous system. St. Jude undertook the BGEM project under subcontract from Rockefeller University (New York) on behalf of NINDS.

"A researcher who discovers a previously unrecognized gene that is expressed during brain development can rapidly determine how it fits into the overall scheme of brain development," said Craig Brumwell, PhD, the GENSAT manager in St. Jude Developmental Neurobiology. "The BGEM helps researchers skip over much of the drudgery of digging up information from the literature or from other databases."

The BGEM already contains detailed information and images of the expression of hundreds of genes that play key roles directing brain development, controlling the expression of other genes, guiding prote
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Source:St. Jude Children's Research Hospital


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