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Wednesday, 25 September, 2002, 14:39 GMT 15:39 UK
Gene 'atlas' could aid cancer research
Genetic analysis
Genes which affect blood will be spotted
A detailed map of the thousands of genes which help make blood cells could help provide scientists with ways to treat and prevent cancer.

The project, funded by the Leukaemia Research Fund, will be based at the Medical Research Council's centre near Cambridge.

Whereas the much-vaunted human genome project is a catalogue of every gene which makes up a human, the latest survey will look only at those involved in the creation and development of blood cells.


This genetic atlas will help us to understand what happens to cells as people develop leukaemia

Dr David Grant, Leukaemia Research Fund
When something goes wrong in this process, perhaps caused by a gene that does not work properly, the cell can become cancerous instead.

This can lead to any of a number of types of leukaemia, myeloma or lymphoma - which kill thousands of people, including many children, in the UK each year.

While there are far fewer genes working in the making of blood cells, thousands will still have to be tested.

Scientists will use a technology called DNA microarrays to spot which ones are turned on at every stage of the process.

Where the development has gone awry, the failure or intervention of key genes can be worked out.

This will give doctors clues on how to go about diagnosing cancer earlier, treating it better - or even preventing it in the first place.

Time lag

However, it is likely to be some time before the project yields practical results of this kind.

Dr Tom Freeman, who will lead it, said: "This research will be a valuable tool in the fight against cancers of the blood.

Thousands of genes are involved
Thousands of genes are involved
"This technology allows us to acquire a global view of the thousands of gene changes that take place."

Dr David Grant, from the Leukaemia Research Fund, which is pumping 500,000 into the programme, said: "Now that the human genome has been mapped, the massive amounts of information that this technology will generate will lead us to the genes that are crucial for blood cell development.

"This genetic atlas will help us to understand what happens to cells as people develop leukaemia."

See also:

08 Jan 99 | Health
12 Aug 02 | Health
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