Whole genes delivered to cells

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Researchers develop new method for highly efficient delivery of large human genes

To make a protein, a cell’s enzymes typically edit out about 90 percent of the information along the length of a DNA strand that makes up a whole gene. In their labs, scientists usually do the same. However, there may be something biologically important in those seemingly disposable chunks of DNA material. Harvard Medical School (HMS) researchers working in the laboratory of Antonio Chiocca, associate professor of neurosurgery, decided to develop a gene-delivery system that could deliver whole genes into cells. Their successful effort was described in the November 2001 issue of Nature Biotechnology. “We hope this will change the way people do gene expression experiments [for example, in functional genomics], because now we can deliver whole genes, not just the small coding regions, to a wide range of cell types for functional analysis,” said HMS instructor of neurosurgery Richard Wade-Martins, a Wellcome Trust International Travelling Research Fellow and first author on the research paper. “This work will provide a much needed tool for the analysis of gene complexity and may prove to be biologically useful in the discovery of drugs that affect gene function,” Chiocca said.