Cancer :: Sleeping Beauty Plays a Significant Role in Identifying Cancer Genes

Researchers at the University of Minnesota Cancer Center and the National Cancer Institute (NCI), part of the National Institutes of Health, have discovered a new method that could accelerate the way cancer-causing genes are found and lead to a more accurate identification of the genes, according to two studies in the July 14, 2005 issue of Nature.

The gene identification method was developed in genetically modified mice and utilized a piece of jumping DNA, called Sleeping Beauty. Jumping genes, or transposons, insert themselves into or between genes and can activate or inactivate a gene?s normal function. Related transposons are natural to the genetic makeup of humans, animals and fish, but through millions of years of evolution, most transposons became inactive dead-ends. In 1997, in another study, University of Minnesota researchers took defunct, non-functioning jumping genes from fish and made the genes jump again. This research had reactivated the element in jumping genes from millions of years of evolutionary sleep, and hence the name Sleeping Beauty.

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