What is the best strategy to determine the specific function of a gene? Certainly a good idea is to eliminate the gene and see what kind of effects this move has on the whole organism. With this goal in mind, the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, the Whitehead Institute and the Broad Institute at MIT and Harvard – together with a consortium of five bioinformatics companies (Bristol-Myers, Novartis Pharma, Eli Lilly, Sigma, Astra Zeneca) – are about concluding the establishment of a technological platform that will allow the scientists to investigate the specific role of some genes in the onset of tumours. They will accomplish this goal by selectively inhibiting the genes’ activity. This ambitious and important project was presented yesterday by William C. Hahn, from the Dana-Farber and the Broad Institute, during the 2nd IFOM-IEO Campus Meeting on Cancer.
“We are building up – says Hahn, who leads the project – what is technically called an RNAi library, a collection of interfering RNAs that work according to a predator-prey rationale. In other words, we have generated a huge assembly of hunter-molecules, so far around 104,000, that are able to target a prey: some 22,000 human and murine genes.”
When these molecules are introduced in the cells they can selectively inactivate a gene by interfering with its activity. How? First of all the hunter spots its prey: the RNA molecule produced from a specific gene that carries the instructions for the synthesis of a protein. Then it binds the prey and destroys it. “At this point – details the scientist – we check the outcome and examine what are the changes that this loss-of-function determines. So far we have identified a set of genes whose role is still unknown. When we combine this information with other data obtained with different analytical approaches we should be able to speed up the procedures necessary to proceed from the singling out of a target and the production of adequate drugs.”
Up to now by using the interfering-inactivation technique the scientists have detected a number of genes, and a hundred of these turned out to control mitosis: a process of cell division which results in the production of two identical daughter cells. “Some of them were already known – pinpoints Hahn – but others were identified for the first time thanks to this technique. Our next goal is to identify genes that are involved in the onset of some tumours and to characterize their role in detail”. Further targets are also two classes of enzymes – called kinases and phosphatases – involved in some steps of the neoplastic transformation.
An important feature of the platform created at Harvard and MIT is the fact that not only the results of this research, but also materials, methods and the newly-built molecules will be accessible at no cost to the whole scientific community. “This approach – explains Hahn – stems from the spirit that animates the Broad Institute, and is the true spirit that we should expect in all kinds of science.”
Closing the carbon loop
08.12.2016 | University of Pittsburgh
Newly discovered bacteria-binding protein in the intestine
08.12.2016 | University of Gothenburg
In recent years, lasers with ultrashort pulses (USP) down to the femtosecond range have become established on an industrial scale. They could advance some applications with the much-lauded “cold ablation” – if that meant they would then achieve more throughput. A new generation of process engineering that will address this issue in particular will be discussed at the “4th UKP Workshop – Ultrafast Laser Technology” in April 2017.
Even back in the 1990s, scientists were comparing materials processing with nanosecond, picosecond and femtosesecond pulses. The result was surprising:...
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...
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...
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...
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,...
16.11.2016 | Event News
01.11.2016 | Event News
14.10.2016 | Event News
08.12.2016 | Life Sciences
08.12.2016 | Physics and Astronomy
08.12.2016 | Materials Sciences