New gene 'atlas' maps human DNA activity - 8 News NOW

New gene 'atlas' maps human DNA activity

Updated: March 26, 2014 02:12 PM
© iStockphoto.com / Ryan Pike © iStockphoto.com / Ryan Pike

WEDNESDAY, March 26, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- Scientists say they've constructed an "atlas" that maps the ways human genes are turned on and off, offering potentially important new insights into health and disease.

The new atlas builds on the achievements of the Human Genome Project -- the mapping of all of the approximately 20,500 human genes, first completed in 2003. Speaking at the time of the Human Genome Project's publication, Francis Collins, director of the U.S. National Human Genome Research Institute, called it "a shop manual, with an incredibly detailed blueprint for building every human cell."

The new gene-activity map describes those networks that govern genes' activity in major cells and tissues in the human body, according to a team of 250 experts from more than 20 countries.

"Now, for the first time, we are able to pinpoint the regions of the genome that can be active in a disease and in normal activity, whether it's in a brain cell, the skin, in blood stem cells or in hair follicles," Winston Hide, an associate professor of bioinformatics and computational biology at Harvard School of Public Health, said in a Harvard news release.

"This is a major advance that will greatly increase our ability to understand the causes of disease across the body," added Hide, who was one of the authors of the main paper in the March 27 issue of Nature.

The findings from the three-year project -- called FANTOM5 -- are described in a series of papers published in Nature and 16 other journals. The project was led by the RIKEN Center for Life Science Technologies in Japan.

In their work, Hide and his colleagues mapped the activity of 224,000 switches that turn human genes on and off. The map includes switches -- which are regions of DNA that manage gene activity -- across a wide range of cell and tissue types.

"We now have the ability to narrow down the genes involved in particular diseases based on the tissue cell or organ in which they work," Hide said. "This new atlas points us to the exact locations to look for the key genetic variants that might map to a disease."

"The FANTOM5 project is a tremendous achievement. To use the analogy of an airplane, we have made a leap in understanding the function of all of the parts. And we have gone well beyond that, to understanding how they are connected and control the structures that enable flight," David Hume, director of The Roslin Institute at the University of Edinburgh, Scotland, and a lead researcher on the project, said in a university news release.

"The FANTOM5 project has identified new elements in the genome that are the targets of functional genetic variations in human populations, and also have obvious applications to other species," he added.

"The research gives us an insight as to why humans are different from other animals, even though we share many genes in common," Dr. Martin Taylor, from the Medical Research Council Institute of Genetics and Molecular Medicine at the University of Edinburgh, said in the news release.

"Comparing the mouse and human atlases reveals extensive rewiring of gene switches that has occurred over time, helping us to understand more about how we have evolved," he explained.

More information

The U.S. National Human Genome Research Institute has more on genetics research.

Copyright © 2014 HealthDay. All rights reserved.

  • Paula's Health NotesLas Vegas Health NewsMore>>

  • Prostate frozen lumpectomy offers patients an alternative

    Prostate frozen lumpectomy offers patients an alternative

    Tuesday, July 29 2014 3:39 PM EDT2014-07-29 19:39:02 GMT
    More than 230,000 men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer this year according to the American cancer society. In most cases, surgical removal of the gland is considered the gold standard of treatment, but results of a new study suggest a new treatment might benefit some patients.More>>
    More than 230,000 men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer this year according to the American cancer society. In most cases, surgical removal of the gland is considered the gold standard of treatment, but results of a new study suggest a new treatment might benefit some patients.More>>
  • New therapies for epilepsy

    New therapies for epilepsy

    Friday, July 25 2014 3:00 PM EDT2014-07-25 19:00:14 GMT
    pilepsy is a chronic neurological condition that affects more than 2.5 million Americans. Uncontrollable seizures plague these patients’ lives. Until now, the only treatments were drugs and major surgery, but new therapies are on the horizon.More>>
    pilepsy is a chronic neurological condition that affects more than 2.5 million Americans. Uncontrollable seizures plague these patients’ lives. Until now, the only treatments were drugs and major surgery, but new therapies are on the horizon.More>>
  • Study touts health care workers with less than bachelor's degree

    Study touts health care workers with less than bachelor's degree

    Thursday, July 24 2014 12:08 AM EDT2014-07-24 04:08:05 GMT
    Among Las Vegas workers with less than a bachelor’s degree only 3.5 percent hold jobs in the most common health care occupations, the lowest percentage among the nation’s 100 largest metropolitan areas, the Brookings Institution reported Wednesday night.More>>
    Among Las Vegas workers with less than a bachelor’s degree only 3.5 percent hold jobs in the most common health care occupations, the lowest percentage among the nation’s 100 largest metropolitan areas, the Brookings Institution reported Wednesday night.More>>
*DISCLAIMER*: The information contained in or provided through this site section is intended for general consumer understanding and education only and is not intended to be and is not a substitute for professional advice. Use of this site section and any information contained on or provided through this site section is at your own risk and any information contained on or provided through this site section is provided on an "as is" basis without any representations or warranties.
Powered by WorldNow
All content © Copyright 2000 - 2014 WorldNow and KLAS. All Rights Reserved.
For more information on this site, please read our Privacy Policy and Terms of Service.