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Breakthrough in cell-type analysis offers new ways to study development and disease
Date:11/13/2008

"We've created a novel, generally applicable tool that can be used by a broad spectrum of the scientific community," says Heintz, who is the James and Marilyn Simons Professor, head of the Laboratory of Molecular Biology and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator. "I think it will rapidly spread into many of areas of biology."

Greengard, Vincent Astor Professor and head of the Laboratory of Molecular and Cellular Neuroscience, says about half of the research in his lab now employs the new technique to study the biochemical basis of Parkinson's, Alzheimer's and Huntington's diseases, as well as the still-mysterious ways in which psychoactive drugs fight schizophrenia and depression. TRAP should fundamentally change biochemical studies of the brain and the speed at which they yield results, he says.

"We can look at a thousand genes instead of one at a time, so things should clear a thousand times faster," says Greengard, who won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 2000 for research into how neurons communicate.

The TRAP method grew out of a project known as GENSAT (for Genetic Expression Nervous System Atlas) that Heintz and Rockefeller professor Mary Beth Hatten launched in 2000 to visualize the contributions of individual genes to the mouse brain. Heintz and his colleagues had developed a technique to engineer large pieces of DNA carried in bacterial artificial chromosomes (BACs), which can insinuate themselves into the genomes of other organisms. They were able to insert the genetic code for green fluorescent protein (EGFP) within the regulatory domain of any gene of interest. When one of these modified BACs is transferred into mice, expression of the EGFP mimics that of the gene of interest, lighting up cells with a green glow that shows researchers all of the cells in which that particular gene functions.

The GENSAT database laid out in glowing green myriad cell types of the mouse brain. And it provided ge
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Contact: Brett Norman
bnorman@rockefeller.edu
212-327-7613
Rockefeller University
Source:Eurekalert

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