New screening tool gives scientists more control over genetic research

May 16, 2014

A genetic tool, developed by investigators at the University of Missouri Bond Life Sciences Center, helps researchers effectively screen cell behavior by limiting “epigenetic silencing,” or the ability of a cell to prevent the expression of a certain gene. Mark Hannink and Tom Mawhinney, professors of biochemistry in the Department of Biochemistry at MU, developed the piggyBac transposon plus insulators that make improved screening possible.

DNA stretches out to nearly 10 feet when it’s uncoiled–10 feet of genetic code coiled into each cell. The new piggyBac transposon tool performs the task of uncoiling and stretching out the DNA so certain portions of the genetic string are held open, enabling the investigation of specific genetic material.

“This simple addition to an existing screening tool used in laboratories may help streamline research and could contribute to the process of screening products such as pharmaceuticals, vitamins, and supplements for authenticity and efficacy,” Hannink says.

Scientists believe that, by using the newly-developed tool, medications such as anti-migraine medicine and multi-vitamins can also be examined to determine their efficacy. The new version of the reporter assay is already being used at the MU Center for Botanical Interaction Studies to understand how botanical compounds affect the immune system and in other research on the central nervous system and on the development of prostate cancer. Read more about this story.

Read more