Promising findings from new DNA research projects
DNA dynamics regulate formation of heart
A new study from UW researchers discovered that when human embryonic stem cells become heart cells, the DNA packaging alters as the cells differentiate, enabling the researchers to pinpoint key regulators of heart development.
The team, led by Charles Murry, professor of pathology, bioengineering, and medicine; Randall Moon, professor of pharmacology; and John Stamatoyannopoulos, associate professor of genome sciences, focused on the development of stem cells into heart muscle. Sharon Paige, a UW M.D.-Ph.D. student in Murry’s lab, served as lead author of the paper.
Exploring the genetic regulation that triggers stem cells to turn into heart cells, the team first looked at the DNA packaging of the stem cells. Since stem cells can turn into any other type of cell, they keep their DNA code secure and hidden until it is necessary to transform.
The researchers investigated how the packaging unraveled to display certain code portions when certain changes were needed. Through the study, the team found that particular genes were uncovered at specific times of development; this timing led to the identification of certain regulators. Given that stem cells can be used in tissue regeneration, knowledge of regulatory factors may provide greater understanding overall of heart disease and remedies.
New DNA-sequencing method could improve cancer treatment
UW postdoctoral fellow Michael Schmitt and M.D.-Ph.D. candidate Jesse Salk published a paper recently that proposed a simple but powerful method of DNA-sequencing to reduce errors: Sequence both strands.
At times, what can appear to be a mutation in DNA is actually an error in sequencing; relating that same location to the other strand could aid researchers in determining whether it is a true mutation, as the other strand would match the mutation if it were real. Such errors often mislead researchers from identifying which cells mutate, delaying diagnosis of cancers and muddling treatment plans.
The strength of this new method has yet to be demonstrated widely, but Salk and Schmitt demonstrated their method in the Loeb cancer-research laboratory at the UW, leading to less than one mistake per 500,000 nucleotides sequenced. The regular method generates one error per 200 nucleotides; improving the accuracy by such a vast amount — nearly 10-million-fold, according to Schmitt, lead author of the paper — can pave the way to sequencing an entire cell genome without a single error.
Reach reporter Garrett Black at email@example.com. Twitter: @garrettjblack
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