Gene Functions Help Cure Diseases

NASA Scientists Study Gene Functions To Treat Diseases

NASA scientists have discovered a way to identify the gene functions of all an organism’s genes simultaneously by using unique DNA sequences or “bar codes.”

Scientists at NASA’s Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif., found that newly validated sequences of synthetic DNA tags, called molecular barcodes, can now be used to accurately characterize gene functions in Saccharomyces cerevisiae, commonly known as baker’s yeast.

“This new approach will enable researchers to study yeast genes,” said Dr. Viktor Stolc, director of the Genome Research Facility at Ames. “Using molecular barcodes helps us understand gene functions under any environmental condition, including microgravity and radiation of space flight. This technique allows scientists for the first time to unambiguously identify all yeast gene functions in parallel.”

DNA sequences are the exact order of the four chemical building blocks that make up an organism’s DNA. Scientists can track cell growth by attaching short, unique DNA tags to a glass slide with many different DNA sequences that are complementary in sequence to DNA molecular barcodes derived from a biological sample.

“Understanding yeast gene functions can ultimately result in treatment of human diseases, as many yeast genes have similar functions in human cells,” Stolc added.

Stolc’s findings were recently published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, USA. The research was conducted in collaboration with the Stanford Genome Technology Center, Stanford University, Calif., and Texas Southern University, Houston.