Researchers map 'gene switches' within the human genome

Apr 10, 2006

Researchers have released a "map" of regions in the human genome that work as "switches" for turning genes on and off. The discovery, made by researchers from McGill University, the Institut de recherches cliniques de Montréal (IRCM) and the McGill University Health Centre (MUHC) and published in the current issue of Genome Research, may revolutionize the way we think about gene regulation and speed up discovery for diagnostics and treatments.

Researchers worldwide will now be able to focus on these important regions, which are responsible for diseases such as cancer, neurodegenerative diseases, diabetes and genetic malformations.

Diseases are not only caused by gene mutations, but by defects in the way genes are controlled. Although the locations of genes in the human genome are now well characterized thanks to the work of the Human Genome Project, the mechanism by which genes are turned on and off was poorly understood until now.

The McGill, IRCM and MUHC research team, led by McGill professor Dr. Mathieu Blanchette, School of Computer Science, and Dr. François Robert, Director of the Laboratory of Chromatin and Genomic Expression at the IRCM, created a computer algorithm that analyzes the billions of "letters" that make up the human genome to identify "signatures" for gene switches. Their work describes a map consisting of more than 100,000 switches involved in controlling human genes.

The theoretical algorithms were then tested using data provided by Dr. Vincent Giguere, an MUHC-based researcher and professor in the Faculty of Medicine at McGill University. "We used the breast cancer model that we documented in a research paper last year," says Dr. Giguere. "We found that the algorithms predicted the gene switch sites very nicely."

The map sheds new light on our understanding of cellular function and is expected to greatly enhance research on many diseases. "The map will speed up discovery for diagnostics and treatments by allowing researchers worldwide to focus on these important regions," said Dr. Blanchette. Dr. Robert concurred, adding, "This discovery may revolutionize the way we think about gene regulation."

Source: McGill University Health Centre

Explore further: Local education politics 'far from dead'

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

First high-resolution national carbon map—Panama

Jul 22, 2013

A team of researchers has for the first time mapped the above ground carbon density of an entire country in high fidelity. They integrated field data with satellite imagery and high-resolution airborne Light ...

Robots in reality

Nov 28, 2011

Consider the following scenario: A scout surveys a high-rise building that’s been crippled by an earthquake, trapping workers inside. After looking for a point of entry, the scout carefully navigates ...

Recommended for you

Local education politics 'far from dead'

16 hours ago

Teach for America, known for recruiting teachers, is also setting its sights on capturing school board seats across the nation. Surprisingly, however, political candidates from the program aren't just pushing ...

First grade reading suffers in segregated schools

17 hours ago

A groundbreaking study from the Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute (FPG) has found that African-American students in first grade experience smaller gains in reading when they attend segregated schools—but the ...

Violent aftermath for the warriors at Alken Enge

17 hours ago

Denmark attracted international attention in 2012 when archaeological excavations revealed the bones of an entire army, whose warriors had been thrown into the bogs near the Alken Enge wetlands in East Jutland ...

Why aren't consumers buying remanufactured products?

19 hours ago

Firms looking to increase market share of remanufactured consumer products will have to overcome a big barrier to do so, according to a recent study from the Penn State Smeal College of Business. Findings from faculty members ...

Expecting to teach enhances learning, recall

19 hours ago

People learn better and recall more when given the impression that they will soon have to teach newly acquired material to someone else, suggests new research from Washington University in St. Louis.

User comments : 0