In the edition of Nature dated Thursday 21 February 2002, an international team of scientists report their analysis of the genome of fission yeast (Schizosaccharomyces pombe). The project, largely funded through a €6.9 million from the European Commission, is likely to have major implications for the future of cancer and other bio-medical research. Fifty of the yeast genes were found to have significant similarity with genes involved in human diseases, including cystic fibrosis, hereditary deafness and non insulin dependent diabetes, and half were found to be cancer related. Because yeast cells are similar to human cells but easier to study, this work is leading to a better understanding of what each gene controls, and how they may be involved in cancer and other diseases in humans.
Research Commissioner Philippe Busquin commented this scientific breakthrough saying: "This type of research is yet another example for the strong link between scientic advancement and practical use for the citizen. Unlike other genomics projects, Europe has taken the leading role in this research through networking of the best. That is precisely what I have been advocating since the Lisbon summit in spring 2000, where I proposed to create a European Research Area."
Schizosaccharomyces pombe is known as fission yeast because it reproduces by splitting rather than by budding like Saccharomyces cerevisiae (baker`s yeast), and is occasionally used for brewing beer. Like man, it is an eukaryote, i.e. an organism that, unlike bacteria, contains its genome in a nucleus inside the cell and is generally thought to be more complex.
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