The research published in this month's Proceedings of the National Academy of Science shows how the researchers have been able to restore proper expression of defective genes, and that this might potentially have a positive effect in genetic diseases such as spinal muscular atrophy.
The research was carried out at Imperial College London and the University of Leicester as collaboration between Professor Francesco Muntoni and Professor Ian Eperon.
Professor Francesco Muntoni, from Imperial College London and the Hammersmith Hospital comments: "Many genetic diseases are caused by the mutation of just one or two of the 3.2 billion base pairs of DNA which comprise our genome. The technique we have developed with our colleagues at the University of Leicester allows us to correct genetic mutations which result in abnormal splicing, as it is the case for spinal muscular atrophy."
Splicing is part of the process by which genes are converted into proteins. Large chunks of useless and meaningless sequence have accumulated in the genes of higher organisations, and the mutation of just one or two of the 3.2 billion base pairs which make up our genome can interfere with splicing.
To make proteins genes first need to be processed into RNA (ribonucleic acid). The information in the genes is broken up into islands of information called exons, which need to be stitched together, while the meaningless sequences are removed. If the sequence of an exon is changed, splicing can be disrupted, causing genetic mutations.
The researchers were able to stick the right sequences back into the exon by using short pieces of RNA (oligos), which stick to the exon of interest and had been modified to recruit signals that influ
Contact: Tony Stephenson
Imperial College London