Corporate Banner
Satellite Banner
Scientific Communities
Become a Member | Sign in
Home>News>This Article

Recreating Natural Complex Gene Regulation

Published: Thursday, February 07, 2013
Last Updated: Thursday, February 07, 2013
Bookmark and Share
By reproducing in the laboratory the complex interactions that cause human genes to turn on inside cells, researchers have created a system they believe can benefit gene therapy research and the burgeoning field of synthetic biology.

This new approach should help basic scientists as they tease out the effects of “turning on” or “turning off” many different genes, as well as clinicians seeking to develop new gene-based therapies for human disease.

“We know that human genes are not just turned on or off, but can be activated to any level over a wide range. Current engineered systems use one protein to control the levels of gene activation,” said Charles Gersbach, assistant professor of biomedical engineering at Duke’s Pratt School of Engineering and member of Duke’s Institute for Genome Sciences and Policy. “However, we know that natural human genes are regulated by interactions between dozens of proteins that lead to diverse outcomes within a living system.

“In contrast to typical genetics studies that dissect natural gene networks in a top-down fashion, we developed a bottom-up approach, which allows us to artificially simulate these natural complex interactions between many proteins that regulate a single gene,” Gersbach said. “Additionally, this approach allowed us to turn on genes inside cells to levels that were not previously possible.”

The results of the Duke experiments, which were conducted by Pablo Perez-Pinera, a senior research scientist in Gersbach’s laboratory, were published on-line in the journal Nature Methods. The research was supported by the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation, The Hartwell Foundation, and the March of Dimes.

Human cells have about 20,000 genes which produce a multitude of proteins, many of which affect the actions of other genes. Being able to understand these interactions would greatly improve the ability of scientists in all areas of biomedical research. However because of the complexity of this natural system, synthetic biologists create simple gene networks to have precise control over each component.  These scientists can use these networks for applications in biosensing, biocomputation, or regenerative medicine, or can use them as models to study the more complex natural systems.

“This new system can be a powerful new approach for probing the fundamental mechanisms of natural gene regulation that are currently poorly understood,” Perez-Pinera said. “In this way, we can further the capacity of synthetic biology and biological programming in mammalian systems.”

The latest discoveries were made possible by using a new technology for building synthetic proteins known as transcription activator-like effectors (TALEs), which are artificial enzymes that can be engineered to “bind” to almost any gene sequences. Since these TALEs can be easily produced, the researchers were able to make many of them to control specific genes.

“All biological systems depend on gene regulation,” Gersbach said. “The challenge facing bioengineering researchers is trying to synthetically recreate processes that occur in nature.”

Further Information
Access to this exclusive content is for Technology Networks Premium members only.

Join Technology Networks Premium for free access to:

  • Exclusive articles
  • Presentations from international conferences
  • Over 2,600+ scientific posters on ePosters
  • More Than 3,800+ scientific videos on LabTube
  • 35 community eNewsletters

Sign In

Forgotten your details? Click Here
If you are not a member you can join here

*Please note: By logging into you agree to accept the use of cookies. To find out more about the cookies we use and how to delete them, see our privacy policy.

Related Content

Molecular ‘Kiss Of Death’ Flags Pathogens For Destruction
Researchers have discovered that our bodies mark pathogen-containing vacuoles for destruction by using a molecule called ubiquitin, commonly known as the "kiss of death."
Wednesday, September 30, 2015
Newly Identified Biochemical Pathway Could Be Target for Insulin Control
Researchers at Duke Medicine and the University of Alberta are reporting the identification of a new biochemical pathway to control insulin secretion from islet beta cells in the pancreas, establishing a potential target for insulin control.
Tuesday, September 29, 2015
Protein Structures Assemble and Disassemble On Command
Gene sequences may enable control of building bio-structures.
Wednesday, September 23, 2015
Molecular Tinkering Doubles Cancer Drug’s Efficacy
Researchers have packaged a widely used cancer drug into nanoparticles, more than doubling its effectiveness at destroying tumors.
Thursday, August 06, 2015
Researchers Learn To Measure Aging Process In Young Adults
Biological measures may be combined to determine whether people are aging faster or slower than their peers.
Tuesday, July 07, 2015
Outsmarting HIV With Vaccine Antigens Made to Order
AIDS vaccine researchers may be one step closer to outwitting HIV, thanks to designer antibodies and antigens made to order at Duke University.
Thursday, July 02, 2015
Animals’ Genomic Buffers May Help Humans
Researchers at Duke University School of Medicine and Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Harvard Medical School have identified a mechanism that explains why some mutations can be disease-causing in one genome but benign in another.
Wednesday, July 01, 2015
New Gene Influences Apple or Pear Shape, Risk of Future Disease
Duke researchers have discovered that a gene called Plexin D1 controls both where fat is stored and how fat cells are shaped.
Tuesday, March 24, 2015
Boy or Girl? Lemur Scents Have the Answer
A new study finds that a pregnant lemur’s signature scent depends in part on whether she’s carrying a girl or a boy.
Friday, February 27, 2015
Duke Awarded $10.4 Million Contract To Continue Developing Radiation Test
The blood test will be able to tell in hours how much radiation a person has absorbed from a nuclear incident.
Friday, February 20, 2015
Bacterial Defense Mechanism Targets Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy
Gene therapy approach could treat 60 percent of Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy patients.
Friday, February 20, 2015
First Contracting Human Muscle Grown in Laboratory
Researchers at Duke University report the first lab-grown, contracting human muscle, which could revolutionize drug discovery and personalized medicine.
Wednesday, January 14, 2015
Drugs to Block Angiogenesis Could Provide New Treatment for TB
Blood supply gives invaders oxygen and a way out.
Monday, November 24, 2014
Gene Required for Recovery from Bacterial Infection Identified
Duke researchers have uncovered the genes that are normally activated during recovery from bacterial infection in the C. elegans worm. The finding could be key to new antibiotics and countering auto-immune disorders.
Monday, October 27, 2014
Nanoparticles Accumulate Quickly in Wetland Sediment
Aquatic food chains might be harmed by molecules "piggybacking" on carbon nanoparticles.
Friday, October 10, 2014
Scientific News
Researchers Develop Classification Model for Cancers Caused by KRAS
Most frequently mutated cancer gene help oncologists choose more effective cancer therapies.
Fixing Holes in the Heart Without Invasive Surgery
UV-light enabled catheter is a medical device which represents a major shift in how cardiac defects are repaired.
Chromosomal Chaos
Penn study forms basis for future precision medicine approaches for Sezary syndrome
Enzyme Malfunction May be Why Binge Drinking Can Lead to Alcoholism
A new study in mice shows that restoring the synthesis of a key brain chemical tied to inhibiting addictive behavior may help prevent alcohol cravings following binge drinking.
Key to Natural Detoxifier’s Reactivity Discovered
Results have implications for health, drug design and chemical synthesis.
New Treatment for Obesity Developed
Researchers at the University of Liverpool, working with a global healthcare company, have helped develop a new treatment for obesity.
New Protein Found in Immune Cells
Immunobiologists from the University of Freiburg discover Kidins220/ARMS in B cells and demonstrate its functions.
Will Brain Palpation Soon Be Possible?
Researchers have developed non-invasive brain imaging technique which provides the same information as physical palpation.
Shaking Up the Foundations of Epigenetics
Researchers at the Centre for Genomic Regulation (CRG) and the University of Barcelona (UB) published a study that challenges some of the current beliefs about epigenetics.
Groundbreaking Computer Program Diagnoses Cancer in Two Days
Researchers have combined genetics with computer science and created a new diagnostic technology can with 85 per cent certainty identify the source of the disease and thus target treatment and, ultimately, improve the prognosis for the patient.
Scroll Up
Scroll Down
Skyscraper Banner

Skyscraper Banner
Go to LabTube
Go to eposters
Access to the latest scientific news
Exclusive articles
Upload and share your posters on ePosters
Latest presentations and webinars
View a library of 1,800+ scientific and medical posters
2,600+ scientific and medical posters
A library of 2,500+ scientific videos on LabTube
3,800+ scientific videos