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 Researchers uncover protein-based “cancer signature”
05.12.2016 | Universität Basel

nachricht The Nagoya Protocol Creates Disadvantages for Many Countries when Applied to Microorganisms
05.12.2016 | Leibniz-Institut DSMZ-Deutsche Sammlung von Mikroorganismen und Zellkulturen GmbH

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Shape matters when light meets atom

Mapping the interaction of a single atom with a single photon may inform design of quantum devices

Have you ever wondered how you see the world? Vision is about photons of light, which are packets of energy, interacting with the atoms or molecules in what...

Im Focus: Novel silicon etching technique crafts 3-D gradient refractive index micro-optics

A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.

Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...

Im Focus: Quantum Particles Form Droplets

In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.

“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...

Im Focus: MADMAX: Max Planck Institute for Physics takes up axion research

The Max Planck Institute for Physics (MPP) is opening up a new research field. A workshop from November 21 - 22, 2016 will mark the start of activities for an innovative axion experiment. Axions are still only purely hypothetical particles. Their detection could solve two fundamental problems in particle physics: What dark matter consists of and why it has not yet been possible to directly observe a CP violation for the strong interaction.

The “MADMAX” project is the MPP’s commitment to axion research. Axions are so far only a theoretical prediction and are difficult to detect: on the one hand,...

Im Focus: Molecules change shape when wet

Broadband rotational spectroscopy unravels structural reshaping of isolated molecules in the gas phase to accommodate water

In two recent publications in the Journal of Chemical Physics and in the Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters, researchers around Melanie Schnell from the Max...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

ICTM Conference 2017: Production technology for turbomachine manufacturing of the future

16.11.2016 | Event News

Innovation Day Laser Technology – Laser Additive Manufacturing

01.11.2016 | Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

 
Latest News

IHP presents the fastest silicon-based transistor in the world

05.12.2016 | Power and Electrical Engineering

InLight study: insights into chemical processes using light

05.12.2016 | Materials Sciences

High-precision magnetic field sensing

05.12.2016 | Power and Electrical Engineering

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>