The identification of disease-causing genes will be much easier and faster thanks to a powerful new gene-networking model developed by researchers at The University of Texas at Austin.
Edward Marcotte and his colleague, postdoctoral researcher Insuk Lee, used the gene network technique to identify new genes that regulate life span and are involved in tumor development in the nematode worm.
In collaboration with Andrew Fraser's group at The Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, the researchers manipulated the newly found genes and were able to extend the lives of the worms by 55 percent and reverse the onset of tumors.
Marcotte hopes to extend the technique to identifying genes for disease and other disorders in humans. The human genome has been sequenced, but very little is known about what more than half of about 20,000 genes do.
"This is a big step forward in the rational discovery of disease genes," says Marcotte, a professor in the Institute for Cellular and Molecular Biology. "We can use this gene modeling technique to predict the function of new genes and then run experiments to confirm the findings.
"The process could greatly improve our ability to pinpoint specific genes involved in disease and aid in the development of drugs."
Marcotte's research was published January 27 online in Nature Genetics.