Northwestern launches major gene banking project

The Center for Genetic Medicine at Northwestern University has launched a major gene banking project that will use information from the human genome sequence to unravel the genetic cause of many diseases and eventually help scientists develop new tests, determine which patients will respond best to a particular drug and develop therapies targeted to fight specific illnesses.

The project -- called NUgene -- is a collaboration of The Feinberg School of Medicine at Northwestern University, Northwestern Memorial Hospital, Evanston Northwestern Healthcare and the Northwestern Medical Faculty Foundation. NUgene is headed by Rex L. Chisholm, professor of cell and molecular biology at the Feinberg School and director of the Center for Genetic Medicine and staffed by a team of leading Northwestern scientists and genetic counselors.

NUgene's goal is to collect thousands of DNA samples and related health information that will be used to search out "candidate genes" believed to play a role in disease, ascertain their role in the disease process and determine, based on an individual's genetic information and medical history, which therapies would be most effective.

"Someday, the NUgene project may enable us to understand enough about the proteins produced by candidate genes that they can then be targeted as therapies," Chisholm said.

Genetic studies are traditionally based on smaller populations, using pedigrees or family studies, but future genetic research will tackle disease with multiple gene and environmental factors.

Such studies will require access to thousands of DNA samples for genotyping and associated patient information from diverse populations, Chisholm said.

"These studies may dramatically improve patient care through identification of patients who will be responsive to certain therapies, providing early disease screening opportunities based on patient predisposition and development of new diagnostic tests and therapies," he s

Contact: Elizabeth Crown
Northwestern University

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