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Scientists develop new cloning technique that dramatically shortens the search for genes

A single strand of plant or animal DNA may contain tens of thousands of genes, each programmed to produce a specific protein essential for the growth or survival of the organism. The challenge for geneticists is to isolate individual genes and determine their function a painstaking process often requiring years of laboratory trial and error.

Now an international research team has discovered a technique that dramatically streamlines this process for certain kinds of genes. Developed by scientists at Stanford University and Britain's John Innes Centre, the new procedure could enable scientists to identify specific genes in a matter of months, not years. The technique, known as transcript-based cloning, is described in the March 30 edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

"We believe that this method represents a significant breakthrough in gene cloning," wrote the authors of the PNAS study.

"The greatest impact of this technology is likely to be on plants with large and complex genomes, including most crop species," added Sharon R. Long, the William C. Steere, Jr.Pfizer Inc. Professor in Biological Sciences at Stanford and co-author of the study. Long, who also serves as dean of Stanford's School of Humanities and Sciences, is an authority on bacterial and plant molecular biology. She and her colleagues used the new cloning technique to isolate and identify a gene in the DNA of Medicago truncatula, or barrel medic a member of the legume family that is closely related to alfalfa, beans and peas.

"Over the course of six months, we completed what took another group several years to complete, and we identified a pretty cool gene to boot," said Stanford postdoctoral fellow Raka M. Mitra, lead author of the PNAS study. "We think this technology will be applicable to other species and hope that it increases the pace of biological research on the whole."

Reverse genetics

Medicago DNA contai
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Contact: Mark Shwartz
mshwartz@stanford.edu
650-723-9296
Stanford University
30-Mar-2004


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