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Powerful new tool for studying brain development

guiding protein production and transporting molecules within the cell.

A key part of the BGEM's success was the development at St. Jude of bioinformatics software that routinely searches scientific databases for new information on genes linked to brain development, said Perdeep Mehta, Ph.D., the group leader in bioinformatics at St. Jude's Hartwell Center for Bioinformatics and Biotechnology. Bioinformatics is the use of computers, software and other technologies to gather, organize, format and use large amounts of biological information. "Our ability to link images of gene expression patterns to information on those genes in other databases increases the value of each new gene discovery," Mehta said.

This integration of multiple research approaches and information provided by the BGEM was key to the success of a St. Jude study of the origin of human brain tumors in children. The team used a technique called microarray analysis to study gene expression patterns in samples of human brain tumors called ependymomas. By comparing the gene expression patterns in human ependymomas with those in the normal developing mouse nervous system provided by the BGEM, the St. Jude investigators demonstrated that specific brain cells, called radial glial cells, likely gave rise to ependymomas.

"Our demonstration that identical-looking ependymomas that arise in different regions of the central nervous system are distinct diseases because they arise from different stem cells is an important insight," said Richard Gilbertson, M.D., Ph.D., the senior author of a report on this work that appeared in the October 2005 issue of Cancer Cell. "This suggests that treatments should be designed to kill the underlying cancer stem cell population. If you kill only the cells making up the bulk of the tumor, the disease will likely return, because you haven't eliminated the source of the tumor.

Further, our comparative analysis of malignant and normal developing tissues provides
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Contact: Kelly Perry
media@stjude.org
901-495-3306
St. Jude Children's Research Hospital
27-Mar-2006


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