Researchers have developed a method for scanning the entire human genome to successfully map the location of key gene regulators, mutated forms of which are known to cause type 2 diabetes. The research marks the first time that human organs, in this case the pancreas and liver, have been analyzed in this way and opens the door to similar studies of other organ systems and diseases.
The work, published in the Feb. 27 issue of the journal Science, could lead to new approaches for developing medications and assessing a persons genetic risk to this and other conditions, says Richard Young, a scientist at Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research and lead researcher on the project.
Key to understanding the relationship between genes and disease are gene regulators called transcription factors, proteins that bind to specific areas of the genome and act to switch genes on and off. To discover how a specific transcription factor might contribute to a particular disease, scientists must locate each point in the genome where the transcription factor adheres and identify the individual genes it controls. Using conventional tools, it might take a single scientist a lifetime to do this for just one transcription factor. Yet humans have over 1,000 transcription factors and dozens of these have been linked to diseases.
David Cameron | EurekAlert!
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