Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Observing live gene expression in the body

01.07.2013
A team from UNIGE has developed a biotechnology that can be used in many biomedical sectors

Most of our physiological functions fluctuate throughout the day. They are coordinated by a central clock in the brain and by local oscillators, present in virtually every cell.

Many molecular gearwheels of this internal clock have been described by Ueli Schibler, professor at the Faculty of Science of the University of Geneva (UNIGE), Switzerland. To study how the central clock synchronizes subordinate oscillators, the researcher's group used a variety of genetic and technological tools developed in collaboration with a team of UNIGE physicians.

In this way, the scientists were able to directly observe the bioluminescence emitted by 'clock genes' in mice for several months. This biotechnology is applicable to numerous sectors of biomedical research, which attracted the attention of the editors from the journal "Genes & Development".

In mammals, there are many behaviors and biological functions that are regulated by internal clocks. Most of our cells have one, made from a family of 'clock genes', whose cyclic activity reaches a specific peak in 24 hours. These local oscillators are synchronized by a central 'pacemaker' in the brain which adjusts to light.

The firefly lights the way

The use of genetic engineering techniques enabled the study of molecular mechanisms that activate clock genes directly in cultured mammalian cells: 'We have coupled several of these genes to that of luciferase, the enzyme used by the female firefly for producing green light to attract males,' explained Ueli Schibler, member of the National Research Center Frontiers in Genetics. When a specific clock gene is activated in a cell that was transformed in this way, the light signal emitted can be measured using a highly sensitive bioluminescence detector. However, this device, which is capable of detecting signals on the order of a few photons, cannot be used for studying whole organisms.

The contribution of André Liani's mechanical workshop, along with Jean-Pierre Wolf's and Luigi Bonacina's teams from UNIGE's Group of Applied Physics, was thus essential. These scientists developed a customized device that can accommodate mice for several months: 'We equipped it with reflective walls to deflect photons toward a highly sensitive photomultiplier tube to capture bioluminescence,' says André Liani.

Follow the daily expression of clock genes live…

In collaboration with the University of Ulm and the Center for Integrative Genomics (CIG) of Lausanne, the biologists studied how the central clock synchronizes subordinate oscillators in mice. Various clock genes, coupled with the luciferase gene for light emission, were inserted into liver cells using a molecular vector. The time these rodents spent in the bioluminescent device allowed to demonstrate that the central clock generates signals, some of which act directly on the liver oscillators, and others which synchronize them indirectly by controlling the cycles of food intake.

…or the effect of a medication in mice

'This technology enables a drastic reduction in the number of mice needed for this type of experiment, and furthermore, it is applicable to many areas of biomedical research,' says Camille Saini, researcher in the Department of Molecular Biology at UNIGE and first author of this article. These complementary genetic and engineering technology tools could be used to directly follow certain biochemical effects of metabolites like cholesterol or glucose, as well as the response to potential treatments of diseases such as hypercholesterolemia or diabetes. Monitoring the response to various hormones, neurotransmitters and other biochemical messengers is also part of this application range.

Ueli Schibler | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.unige.ch

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Bare bones: Making bones transparent
27.04.2017 | California Institute of Technology

nachricht Link Discovered between Immune System, Brain Structure and Memory
26.04.2017 | Universität Basel

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Making lightweight construction suitable for series production

More and more automobile companies are focusing on body parts made of carbon fiber reinforced plastics (CFRP). However, manufacturing and repair costs must be further reduced in order to make CFRP more economical in use. Together with the Volkswagen AG and five other partners in the project HolQueSt 3D, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) has developed laser processes for the automatic trimming, drilling and repair of three-dimensional components.

Automated manufacturing processes are the basis for ultimately establishing the series production of CFRP components. In the project HolQueSt 3D, the LZH has...

Im Focus: Wonder material? Novel nanotube structure strengthens thin films for flexible electronics

Reflecting the structure of composites found in nature and the ancient world, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have synthesized thin carbon nanotube (CNT) textiles that exhibit both high electrical conductivity and a level of toughness that is about fifty times higher than copper films, currently used in electronics.

"The structural robustness of thin metal films has significant importance for the reliable operation of smart skin and flexible electronics including...

Im Focus: Deep inside Galaxy M87

The nearby, giant radio galaxy M87 hosts a supermassive black hole (BH) and is well-known for its bright jet dominating the spectrum over ten orders of magnitude in frequency. Due to its proximity, jet prominence, and the large black hole mass, M87 is the best laboratory for investigating the formation, acceleration, and collimation of relativistic jets. A research team led by Silke Britzen from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany, has found strong indication for turbulent processes connecting the accretion disk and the jet of that galaxy providing insights into the longstanding problem of the origin of astrophysical jets.

Supermassive black holes form some of the most enigmatic phenomena in astrophysics. Their enormous energy output is supposed to be generated by the...

Im Focus: A Quantum Low Pass for Photons

Physicists in Garching observe novel quantum effect that limits the number of emitted photons.

The probability to find a certain number of photons inside a laser pulse usually corresponds to a classical distribution of independent events, the so-called...

Im Focus: Microprocessors based on a layer of just three atoms

Microprocessors based on atomically thin materials hold the promise of the evolution of traditional processors as well as new applications in the field of flexible electronics. Now, a TU Wien research team led by Thomas Müller has made a breakthrough in this field as part of an ongoing research project.

Two-dimensional materials, or 2D materials for short, are extremely versatile, although – or often more precisely because – they are made up of just one or a...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Expert meeting “Health Business Connect” will connect international medical technology companies

20.04.2017 | Event News

Wenn der Computer das Gehirn austrickst

18.04.2017 | Event News

7th International Conference on Crystalline Silicon Photovoltaics in Freiburg on April 3-5, 2017

03.04.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Bare bones: Making bones transparent

27.04.2017 | Life Sciences

Study offers new theoretical approach to describing non-equilibrium phase transitions

27.04.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

From volcano's slope, NASA instrument looks sky high and to the future

27.04.2017 | Earth Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>