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UCSF creates fast, affordable tool for finding gene 'on-off' switches
Date:5/19/2009

UCSF scientists have created a method of quickly identifying large numbers of the genetic material known as short hairpin RNA also called shRNA that turns genes on and off.

The method, which the research team has used to create a library of 22,000 of these "on-off" switches for roughly 600 human genes, provides a tool for scientists throughout the world, with ultimate impacts on the study of the genetic basis of diseases ranging from HIV to high cholesterol, Parkinson's disease or cancer. The team is currently working on creating an shRNA library for the entire human genome.

Findings are available in the Advanced Online Publication section of the journal Nature Methods at http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/nmeth.1330 and will appear in the June 2009 print issue of the journal.

Since their discovery in the past decade, biologically active small RNAs have become the holy grail of much pharmaceutical and genomics research, offering the hope of creating targeted therapeutics to "turn off" or turn down the "volume" of various genes involved in disease, according to Michael McManus, PhD, a UCSF microbiology professor and senior author on the paper. This process is known as RNA interference.

Until now, however, the process of finding shRNAs that are able to potently deactivate a given gene has been extremely laborious and laden with many false results.

The new method uses a microarray technology to generate large numbers of these shRNA strands for each target gene roughly 10 times the volume of traditional methods thereby enabling researchers to screen for RNA interference much faster than before and at a minimal cost, McManus said. "This means that even a small laboratory with limited resources can perform complex genetic screens on mammalian cell cultures," he said. "With the current scarcity of research funding, these are invaluable tools for researchers worldwide
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Contact: Kristen Bole
kbole@pubaff.ucsf.edu
415-476-2557
University of California - San Francisco
Source:Eurekalert

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