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Fly and worm models to teach researchers about human biology and medicine

In an effort to understand every part of the genome needed for organisms to develop and thrive, the National Human Genome Research Institute, part of the National Institutes of Health, today announced the first grants in a four-year, $57 million scientific mission to identify all functional elements in the genomes of the fruit fly and round worm.

The effort will build upon the foundation laid by the ENCyclopedia Of DNA Elements (ENCODE) consortium, which is preparing to build a comprehensive catalog, or "parts list," of all elements in the human genome crucial to biological function. In addition to genes that code for proteins, these functional elements include: non-protein-coding genes; regulatory elements involved in the control of gene transcription; and DNA sequences that mediate the structure and dynamics of chromosomes.

"We are making great strides in identifying functional elements in the human genome, but we still don't know much about their biological relevance. This parallel effort in the fruit fly and worm genomes will provide us with information about the functional landscape of two key model organisms, which should aid our efforts to tackle such questions in humans," said NHGRI Director Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D.

Over the past several years, ENCODE researchers have collaborated in a pilot project to develop and use innovative methods and technologies to find functional elements in about 1 percent of the human genome. The new effort, dubbed model organism ENCODE (modENCODE), will take advantage of many of these methods and technologies. However, rather than using the tools on the large and complex human genome, researchers will apply them to the smaller, and therefore more manageable, genomes of the fruit fly ("Drosophila melanogaster") and the round worm ("Caenorhabditis elegans"). The scientific community relies heavily on these model organisms to identify common genes,
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Contact: Geoff Spencer
spencerg@mail.nih.gov
301-402-0911
NIH/National Human Genome Research Institute
14-May-2007


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