A method for determining the function of large numbers of genes is being developed and piloted by Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) researchers at Harvard Medical School. In a trial of the technique, the researchers characterized the role in growth and viability of nearly all the genes in the genome of the fruit fly Drosophila.
Although the fruit fly genome was chosen for the first study, the researchers are confident that their technique can be applied to any organism, including humans. “A major challenge now that many genome sequences have been determined, is to extract meaningful functional information from those projects,” said HHMI researcher Norbert Perrimon, who directed the study. “While there are a number of analytical approaches that can measure the level of gene expression or the interaction between proteins, ours is really the first high-throughput, full-genome screening method that allows a systematic interrogation of the function of every gene.”
The research team, which included Perrimon and colleagues at Harvard Medical School, the University of Heidelberg and the Max Planck Institute for Molecular Genetics in Germany, described its technique in the February 6, 2004, issue of the journal Science.
Jim Keeley | HHMI
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