Futuristic tool views gene activity in real timeDecember 17th, 2008 - 2:24 pm ICT by IANS
Washington, Dec 17 (IANS) GeneVision, a tool developed by a team that includes Indian American researcher Dhruv Grover, has the uncanny ability to view the activity of any chosen gene in real time through a specially modified camera.GeneVision could enable military commanders to compare gene expression in victorious and defeated troops. Retailers could track genes related to craving as shoppers moved about a store.
The study correlates real-time gene expression with movement and behaviour for the first time. The proof-of-concept experiment in fruit flies opens a new door for the study of genes’ influence on behaviour.
The authors, from the University of Southern California (USC) and Cambridge University, tagged genes with a harmless molecule known as Green Fluorescent Protein (GFP).
When a gene was active, the flies gave off a fluorescent glow. A camera fitted with a special filter detected the glow, whose intensity was then measured automatically.
At the same time, a multiple-camera system designed by co-author and USC doctoral scholar Dhruv Grover tracked the movement of each fly in three dimensions. The result: an exact picture of gene activity at every point and time of a fly’s life.
“We can correlate behaviour with certain genes and find genes that may be responsible for certain behaviours,” Grover said.
The 3-D tracking and real-time measurement of gene activity are both firsts in live animal studies, the researchers said. The methods also delivered new insights on aging in the fruit fly, long a model organism for the study of biological processes.
The findings were published in BMC Biotechnology.
The genes are known to respond to oxidative stress. Co-author John Tower, associate professor of molecular and computational biology at USC, speculated that the genes were reacting to a sharp increase in oxidative stress as the fly began dying of natural causes, said a USC release.
Oxidation - the chemical process behind rust and food spoilage - takes place constantly in the body as a byproduct of metabolism. “Burning that fuel to produce energy is toxic,” Tower said.
Other animals soon will be studied the same way, Grover predicted.
Tags: american researcher, computational biology, doctoral scholar, fruit flies, gene activity, green fluorescent protein, model organism, southern california usc, time measurement, university of southern california