Canada Research Chair in the Regulation of Gene Expression
Tier 2 - 2004-09-01
University of Ottawa
613-737-7700 Ext. 6981
Coming to Canada from
Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, USA
Using proteomics technologies to clarify gene expression mechanisms.
The research aims to improve our understanding of the mechanisms that regulate the expression of genes in order to facilitate the development of gene therapy techniques in the treatment of a variety of diseases.
New Prospects for Gene Therapy
Many diseases, both hereditary and non-hereditary, originate in abnormalities in gene expression. Currently, the most promising strategy to treat these diseases is through gene therapy.
With the development in the early 1980s of the technology to transfer genes to mouse stem cells, the possibility of gene therapy seemed an attainable goal. Human gene therapy trials, however, have resulted in little therapeutic value either because of poor gene expression or, in a few cases, because of severe side effects.
Clearly more research needs to be done and the work of scientists like Dr. Marjorie Brand in deciphering the regulation of gene expression at the molecular level must be supported. As a Canada Research Chair, Dr. Brand studies the expression of the ß-globin gene as a model in order to better understand the mechanisms regulating gene expression. The ß-globin gene provides the blueprint for the ß-globin protein, one of three proteins comprising hemoglobin, the oxygen-carrying molecule in red blood cells (erythrocytes). Defects in expression of the ß-globin gene result in two common human genetic diseases, ß-thalassemia and sickle cell anemia.
Dr. Brand's laboratory is employing a new proteomics technology - Isotope-Coded Affinity Tags (ICAT) mass spectrometry - to identify all proteins that are involved in regulating the expression of the ß-globin gene and that are therefore essential in the development of mature red blood cells containing hemoglobin.
By understanding the mechanism of ß-globin gene expression, scientists will be able to help develop better gene therapy protocols for both ß-globin-related and other genetic diseases.