Light Switch for Gene ExpressionCategory: Science & Technology
Posted: May 17, 2012 08:49AM
Just about everything about a person is described by their DNA. How we look, how tall we are or will be, whether we can get certain diseases, and even our intelligence (to a degree) is written in our genes. Also genes can affect diseases such as cancer, which is the uncontrolled growth of cells with mutated genetic information. Researchers at North Carolina State University have developed a way to selectively control if a gene is expressed or not with UV light.
Of course there is more than just light involved. The UV light just acts as a switch for triplex-forming oligonucleotides (TFOs) which are commonly used for controlling gene expression. These molecules will attach to DNA and block transcription, and the researchers wanted a better way to control them. This was accomplished by attaching them to a light-activated 'cage,' so that only when the UV light hits the cage is the TFO able to attach to the DNA. The researchers also created the converse system, which only allows the TFO to attach to the DNA when UV light is not present.
This level of control should allow other researchers to very selectively turn on and off specific genes whenever they wish to. Such an ability will allow researchers to better understand what certain genes do, which may then lead to improved treatments for many diseases.