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

proteins and processes that underlie human medical conditions.

"One of the main reasons we were able to complete the Human Genome Project ahead of schedule and under budget was that we learned so much from sequencing the smaller genomes of model organisms, such as the worm and fly. This work enabled us to perfect the high-throughput methods and technologies that would be needed to completely analyze the much larger sequence of the human genome," said Robert H. Waterston, M.D., Ph.D., chair of the Department of Genome Sciences, University of Washington in Seattle, and one of the researchers receiving a modENCODE grant.

The fruit fly and round worm modENCODE projects have been designed so that similar elements in both organisms are being studied and catalogued in parallel. Unlike ENCODE's human-focused effort, modENCODE researchers can also conduct experiments in flies or worms to validate the biological relevance of the functional elements they identify. By combining and comparing data from worm, fly and human, researchers can learn far more about the functional elements than if they analyzed the genome of just one organism.

"Both the fly and worm share many genetic similarities with humans, yet their genomes are far easier to work with in experimental settings. modENCODE will enable us to confirm what we're finding in the human genome by manipulating the fly and worm genomes in a precise and rapid way," said Elise Feingold, Ph.D., the NHGRI program director in charge of the ENCODE and modENCODE projects. "If a DNA sequence has been conserved throughout evolution -- from worm to fly to human -- it is very likely that the sequence is functionally relevant."

The modENCODE research consortium is made up of teams of experts who bring a great deal of knowledge about the biology of the fruit fly and roundworm. Due to the complexity of the data, the teams will work together to maximize the in
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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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