Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

New genomics tool boosts diabetes research

27.02.2004


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 person’s 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.


"We developed an efficient gene-scanning technology so we could map genome binding sites for many transcription factors in a human organ," says Duncan Odom, a postdoctoral fellow at Whitehead Institute and lead author of the paper. "This allows us to identify the sets of genes where transcription factors act as switches and to learn how defects in these switches might cause disease".

In October 2002, a team led by Young, who also is a professor of biology at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, reported in Science on a technology used to identify how over 100 transcription factors were associated with the yeast genome, reducing the amount of time it would ordinarily take to do this from centuries to months. In this new study, Young’s team demonstrates that a modified version of this technology also can be used to scan human tissue.

The researchers applied this technology to several transcription factors that reside in the pancreas and liver and were known to be associated with type 2 diabetes, but just how they contributed to the disease was unknown. They discovered that one of the transcription factors, called HNF4, controls about half of all the genes needed to make the pancreas and liver. This suggests that without HNF4, these organs could not function normally, which is particularly relevant to diabetes because the pancreas produces insulin and loss of insulin production causes the disease.

HNF4 seems to contain many of the mutations that predispose a person to type 2 diabetes, the scientists say. "This new evidence explains why defects in the HNF4 transcription factor can lead to diabetes," says Young. "Even a small loss of HNF4 function could affect the health of the pancreas because this regulator is associated with so many important genes in this organ."

Now that we understand HNF4’s role, Young suggests researchers might be able to develop medications that modify the activities of mutated forms of HNF4, which could possibly prevent diabetes in some at-risk individuals. Also, these findings could enable scientists to create methods for analyzing an individual’s genetic profile to determine exactly that person’s risk level.

"This really changes your whole perspective," says Graeme Bell, professor of biochemistry and molecular biology at University of Chicago and co-author on the paper. "Before we were just looking at these conditions one gene at a time. Now we can see the whole playing field, and more importantly, we can see the players."

These findings go beyond diabetes and offer a whole new way of approaching research on many diseases, Young adds. "There are many human diseases associated with mutations in transcription factors, including cancer, hypertension and immunological and neurological disorders. Discovering how transcription factors regulate genes in various human organs should continue to provide clues to the causes of disease and offer new approaches for therapy."


Reporters may receive a copy of the journal article by contacting Science at scipak@aaas.org.

David Cameron | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.wi.mit.edu/home.html

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

DGIST develops 20 times faster biosensor

24.04.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Nanoimprinted hyperlens array: Paving the way for practical super-resolution imaging

24.04.2017 | Materials Sciences

Atomic-level motion may drive bacteria's ability to evade immune system defenses

24.04.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>