As published in the October 15th issue of Genes & Development, Dr. Hong Yan and his team at Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia detail their use of frogs to investigate how the gene defective in patients with Bloom's Syndrome works. Bloom's Syndrome is associated with the development of tumors early in life, usually in the twenties. Bloom's Syndrome is a rare genetic disease which is most frequently found among Ashkenazi Jews. These patients are predisposed to develop all types of the cancer. Understanding the molecular mechanisms beneath Bloom's Syndrome is an important goal to help to fight cancer.
The gene defective in Bloom's Syndrome enables additional mutations to occur. This gene belongs to the helicases, a class of proteins known to unwind double stranded DNA during replication and repair. In order to identify the exact role of this protein, Dr. Yan and colleagues turned to the species Xenopus, a frog firmly established as a biological model system. They used extracts from Xenopus eggs to reconstitute a cell-free system of DNA replication. After identifying the frog version of the Bloom's Syndrome protein, the team used specific antibodies to remove the protein from the system. They discovered that the Bloom's Syndrome protein is essential for DNA replication in Xenopus. It is likey that the protein will have the same function in humans. Turning to a frog sometimes really leads to royal results.