New DNA Array Method Helps Researchers Decipher Genomes Master Switches
Researchers at the Whitehead Institute and Corning Inc. have invented a powerful new microarray technique that can decipher the function of master switches in a cell by identifying the circuit, or the set of genes, they control across the entire genome. The researchers show that the technique can correctly identify the circuits controlled by two known master switches in yeast. In addition, the technique allows researchers to unravel in a week what takes years to achieve by conventional methods.
"We are very excited by these results because they suggest that our technique can be used to create a "users manual" for the cells master controls, a booklet that matches the master switches to the circuits they control in the genome," says Whitehead Member Richard Young who led the study.
The technique, published in the December 22 issue of Science, also provides researchers new scientific muscle needed to piece together the master wiring diagramthe controls and the circuitsthat operate the complicated machinery of life.
Creating such a diagram represents the next step toward using the information from the Human Genome Project. For although the Human Genome Project will soon provide researchers a catalog of all the genes that make up a human being, it will in many ways be analogous to having the complete parts list for a Boeing 777, say researchers. The information does not tell us anything about putting all the parts together, nor does it tell us how the cockpit controls function to make the plane fly.
"Our technique creates the documentation needed to put the parts together and identifies how the major controls are connected to these parts," says Young. Such information will be fundamental to finding the genetic basis of diseases and for discovering better drugs.