SALT LAKE CITY, April 28 (UPI) — Biologists at the University of Utah, which helped pioneered the deletion of genes in lab animals, have learned to “knock out” genes in nematode worms.
University biologists Erik Jorgensen, Christian Frokjaer-Jensen and colleagues said the technique allows researchers to learn what the function of specific genes.
“We developed a method that allows us to walk through the worm genome and determine the function of each gene and thereby infer the function of these genes in humans,” said Jorgensen, a biology professor and senior author of a study outlining the technique.
“The amazing thing is that cellular processes in a lowly worm are similar to the biology in humans,” said Frokjaer-Jensen, a postdoctoral fellow and the study’s first author. “We’ve made it much easier and faster to change the genetic blueprint of a simple worm so we can study and understand how genes are regulated.”
Frokjaer-Jensen said it might be possible to use the new method to study genes in other animals that serve as models for humans, including flatworms and zebrafish.
University of Utah biologists pioneered the field, with Professor Mario Capecchi winning a Nobel Prize for developing knockout mice and Professor Kent Golic finding a way to cripple fruit fly genes.
The study involving nematode worms appears in the early online edition of the journal Nature Methods.
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