South Texas research team collaborated on genome map
Two San Antonio researchers are co-authors on one of the
landmark scientific papers of all time, “Initial sequencing and analysis of the human genome,”
to be published Feb. 12 in the journal Nature.
Susan L. Naylor, Ph.D., professor of cellular and
structural biology at The University of Texas Health Science Center at San
Antonio (UTHSC), worked with colleagues at Baylor College of Medicine in
Houston and Washington University in St. Louis to sequence human chromosome 3.
Dr. Naylor’s group ensured that the order of the genetic material in the
chromosome was precisely revealed and catalogued.
Dawn K. Garcia, research associate in cellular and structural biology, also is a co-author.
Chromosome 3, the third largest of the human
chromosomes, accounts for 7 percent of a person’s entire genetic blueprint.
Increased knowledge of the genome is changing the face of disease prevention,
diagnosis and treatment.
“In our Health Science Center labs, we have proven
that a gene on Chromosome 3 is linked to ovarian cancer,” Dr. Naylor said. “We
are working with many types of genes, including several that suppress formation
of various cancers and others that are involved in bone development. Scientists
worldwide come to us because we are the resource, the clearinghouse, for
information on Chromosome 3.”
The genome, composed of an amazing primordial acid
called DNA, is found in the center of every cell. More complex than the most
sophisticated computer software, DNA programs the biology of development,
puberty, adult life and death. It appears in x-shaped structures (chromosomes)
in the nucleus of every cell, is made up of blocks of functional units called
genes, and contains four foundational amino acids, abbreviated as G, C, A and
T. The order of these acids determines the function of a sequence of DNA.
Dr. Naylor’s lab provided “clones” (copies of DNA extracted from cells and grown in
petri dishes) for the Houston and St. Louis centers. She collaborated with Richard
Gibbs, Ph.D., of the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston and Bob Waterston,
Ph.D., of Washington University. When the sequence of a stretch of DNA was
worked out, these centers shipped the results to the Health Science Center for
entry into its database.
The National Genome Research Institute funded the
11-year Human Genome Project at scores of institutions, including UTHSC. Some
of the 100 authors on the two Nature
papers are from collaborating institutions abroad.
“We are at an incredible point because there is such
an explosion of knowledge,” Dr. Naylor said. “This information is raising
ethical questions faster than we can find answers. In some cases, physicians
are able to predict whether someone will have a particular disease in the
future. It’s believed that everyone has at least three ‘bad’ genes, and cancer,
heart disease, diabetes and all the diseases have huge genetic components. The
amount of knowledge coming out now will keep us occupied for a long time.”
Contact: Will Sansom