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A Genetic Skeleton Key

There is a new new method for finding a human gene if an analogous gene from any other life form is already known.

While other techniques already exist to find cross-species gene analogs, this method is far more accurate. The new method -- devised through the collaborative efforts of U.S. and Russian researchers working at USC -- is likely to find ready applications in biotechnology, evolutionary biology and medical research.

The researchers, two in Russia and one in the United States, describe the method in the Aug. 20 issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science.

"Hunting for human genes is a massive, painstaking undertaking that typically takes years and costs tens or even hundreds of millions of dollars," said co-author Pavel A. Pevzner, a professor of mathematics and computer science. With this method, we can find a human gene if an analogous gene from another species has been identified. The species doesn't matter: mouse, chicken, frog. Anything alive can serve as a template to find human genes."

Many cancer-causing genes already identified in mice and other laboratory animals are thought to have analogs that cause cancer in humans. This animal research can now be translated far more quickly into human gene sequences, and ultimately, it is hoped, into treat-ments and cures."

Pevzner and his Russian collabora-tors -- Mikhail S. Gelfand, of the Institute of Protein Research at the Russian Academy, and Andrey A. Mironov, of the Laboratory of Mathematical Methods at the Russian National Center for Biotechnology -- have devised a method that is able to overcome formidable obstacles.

In very simple life forms, such as bacteria, genes are written into the organism's hereditary material as continuous strings of information, recording genetic information in the four-letter base-pair AGCT alpha-bet of DNA.

In man and other multi-celled organisms, the situation is much less straightforward, even though exactly the same alpha
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Contact: Eric Mankin
mankin@usc.edu
213-740-9344
University of Southern California
20-Aug-1996


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