04/11/2006

WVU Purchases Genetic Research Equipment

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – The latest weapon in WVU’s research arsenal can be used to analyze up to 500,000 genetic variations at one time or analyze the expression levels of all the genes in a cell.

“While we know about the genes that make up the human genome,” Sepideh Zareparsi, Ph.D., an assistant professor at the WVU Eye Institute said, “The genetic variations that make each person an individual are of interest to us. What is there in an individual’s genetic make-up that makes him or her susceptible to macular degeneration, for example? This machine will allow us to look for the gene or genes involved in a particular disease.”

The Affymetrix gene chip platform will be used by researchers at the Health Sciences Center to study gene expression and genotyping, according to Dr. Zareparsi.

“By studying gene expression, we can see what is happening in the cell,” Zareparsi said. “It is the first step in the therapeutic drug-discovery process.”

Gene expression is one of the processes by which proteins are produced from the DNA inside a cell. By studying gene expression, researchers can determine what causes a cell to become diseased, which can be used to develop treatments for that disease.

The equipment has been used successfully in the past to identify genes involved in a variety of diseases. Zareparsi expects to study the genes involved in diabetic retinopathy, the blindness caused by diabetes, which is prevalent in West Virginia.

“This gives us the opportunity to do research on diseases that are of particular concern to West Virginians, including neuropsychiatric and neurologic disorders, cancer and cardiovascular and lung disease,” said George Spirou, Ph.D., director of the Sensory Neuroscience Research Center. “Identifying the genes involved in these diseases gives us one more way to fight them.”

“We are taking another step in meeting the goals set forth in WVU’s strategic research plan,” said Robert D’Alessandri, M.D., vice president of the Health Sciences Center. “This technology gives us the opportunity, for example, to combine neurosciences research with diabetes research, potentially affecting lives every day.”

The gene chip platform was purchased with funding provided by the National Institutes of Health, the WVU Health Sciences Strategic Research Plan, and charitable contributions to the WVU Eye Institute.

- WVU -


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For more information:
Bill Case, HSC News Service, (304) 293-7087
casew@rcbhsc.wvu.edu
lc:04-11-06

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