Gene Atlas

‘UK Gene 'atlas' could aid cancer research - 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. 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. 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. 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”.’ BBC News online, 2002

Under the red,

tools of coagulation,

root of colour mystery,

to the moving heart of blood,

white word written

in rubber veins -

bad poetry

ruining the bright cell,

sequencing and purpose -

corrupt commander, prophet,

saying: Go forth and multiply,

sacrifice yourself,

until internal sea

is polluted, sickened -

as we have done

to outer sea systems

where blood came;

enclosed, brewed by life

until it burned red

in the enclosed environment,

cultured beyond imagination

to this circulating soup

sustaining the animal -

already red with passion.

‘The Medical Research Council (MRC) Human Genetics Unit in Edinburgh has developed a new imaging technique, Optical Projection Tomography (OPT), which produces high-resolution 3D images of tissue. It will be used initially to aid research into gene function in mice but in future could be used to speed up and improve the accuracy of medical diagnosis using tissue biopsies from patients. OPT allows unprecedented insights into the structure of tissues. It works by imaging the entire object from many different angles. A computer then reconstructs the object by accumulating all the information and calculating a 3-D image. Previously three dimensional tissue images had to be built up laboriously, by compiling hundreds of images from thin sections. The technique also has the advantage of being able to examine tissue up to 15mm across, in contrast to a maximum of one millimetre using previous optical imaging technologies. Dr James Sharpe, MRC Research Training Fellow at the MRC Human Genetics Unit said: “The genome sequencing projects have successfully identified many thousands of genes, but now the challenge is to find out what all those genes do and their contribution to health and disease. There’s a tremendous amount of research worldwide into how genes work and the first step in understanding the function of a new gene is often to discover exactly where it’s active. Understanding this function in mice can help us look at similar gene function in humans. The efficiency and low expense of OPT will hopefully make it feasible to generate this information for all genes of the genome, providing us with a complex 3-D ‘map’ of where the genes perform their function. This would be an invaluable resource for scientists around the world, comparable to the map of the genome itself”.’ Medical Research Council, UK

Extreme interior topography

Extreme interior topography - organic castles

pictured in computer mind from information;

re-structuring 3D construction familiar to genes

expressing their creatures in three dimensions –

inflating the dessicated codes, dreamworks,

to realisation of pictures, images - sensible

diagrams fleshed with substance; place,

sensational reconstruction of this tissue.

‘Another type of community resource for the biological and biomedical research communities is represented by databases. But their support represents a potentially significant problem. Funding agencies, reflecting the interest of the research community, tend to prefer to use their research funds to support the generation of new data, and the ongoing need for continued and increasing support for the data archives and robust access to them is often given less attention. Both the scientific community and the funding agencies must recognize that investment in the creation and maintenance of effective databases is as important a component of research funding as data generation. The NHGRI has been a major source of support for several major genetics/genomics-oriented databases, including the  HYPERLINK "" Mouse Genome Database, the  HYPERLINK "" Saccharomyces Genome Database,  HYPERLINK "" WormBase and  HYPERLINK "" Online Mendelian Inheritance in Man. The NHGRI will continue to be a leader in exploring effective solutions to the issues of integrating, displaying and providing access to genomic information…Determining the absolute abundance of each protein, including all modified forms, will be an important next step. A complete interaction map of the proteins in a cell, and their cellular locations, will serve as an atlas for the biological and medical explorations of cellular metabolism. These and other related areas constitute the developing field of proteomics.’ A Vision for the Future of Genomics Research, US National Human Genome Research Institute, 2003

What name for the libraries of the world

What name for the libraries of the world;

not works of man, but Nature - now read

by Science – Alexandrian, noble - free

as can be, must be; principled libraries,

reflective of the author of the books -

given gratis to the world, with beauty

integral; founding reflection, aesthetic

of function, dynamism, production –

volumes studied by mankind for good,

in public light, eclipsing any darkness

of those plotting valuable verses,

passages, for private collections.

‘Some go to the cell's outer membrane and are ejected. Knowledge of how proteins behave and interact is essential for any understanding of life itself. So, having completed the decoding an organism's genome, scientists now  want to make a protein map - its proteome.’ BBC, 2003

How beautiful will be the proteome -

How beautiful will be the proteome -

the dazzling interlinking; expression

of projected art, creation

of organic realisation -

dreams that come from bare codes,

to solid dreams that people Earth -

bodies of plants and all creatures.

The song that is sung from notes,

marks on a page; making music.

The garment over bones - spun

from revealed pattern - plotted

stars. What you can touch, feel,

once complete for just a moment;

that is never quite there - or gone.

‘Dr John Newton, the new Chief Executive Officer for the UK Biobank project, will make his first appearance this evening (Monday 7 April) at an event organised by the Parliamentary and Scientific Committee at Portcullis House. During his speech to the Parliamentary and Scientific Committee Dr Newton, a public health specialist and epidemiologist and former Director of Research at the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford, will say of the Human Genome Project: "The last few years of the last century saw biomedical science transformed by the Human Genome Project. The new genetics provides a stunning opportunity to move ahead in our understanding of variability in human health. But the genome itself is not the answer. If these extraordinary insights are not to be relegated to a contemporary museum exhibit, we need to be able to develop practical intelligence. The UK Biobank is part of the continuing international effort to achieve just that. On the scientific design of the UK Biobank project: "There has already been useful scientific debate about the design of the project both in the UK and internationally, and the consensus reached is reflected in the draft scientific protocol. The power of the UK Biobank is that its design provides the most powerful means of identifying the true causes of disease and showing how they interact with one another. Unless information and samples are collected before people become ill it can be all but impossible to distinguish the causes of disease from its effects. I am looking forward to the next phase of development and would be delighted to receive constructive comment on any aspect of the project. We will not start recruiting until we are sure we have the best design”.Joint press release, Wellcome Trust, Medical Research Council and Department of Health, UK, 2003

‘Plans to recruit half a million adults (aged 40 to 69) to the genetic research project UK Biobank progressed only slowly, amid continued scientific controversy about the usefulness of the proposals. In May 2005, the Medical Research Council finally published the scientific peer reviewers’ comments on the Biobank’s original scientific protocol (published in 2002), following a Freedom of Information request from GeneWatch. Many of the reviewers raised concerns about the design and statistical assumptions behind the study; the likely poor quality of much of the data; and the plans for a broad form of consent and access to the data by commercial companies. The Biobank now plans to publish a new scientific protocol, and to undertake a new scientific review process, following a large-scale pilot project in 2006 (more than three

years behind the original schedule). However, the issue of whether the project is a good priority for health has largely been excluded from public consultation and debate. The UK Biobank’s Ethics and Governance Council was also appointed in 2005, but many issues within its remit also remain to be resolved. For example, a draft policy on intellectual property and access to the data by researchers from universities and industry was published in January 2005. However, this policy remains controversial because it would allow researchers or their institutions to patent gene sequences that they had linked with diseases using Biobank research.’ Genewatch, 2006

The world's biggest medical project, aimed at understanding how our environment influences the diseases we develop, is launched today amid sudden U-turns by scientists who had been highly critical of the project.’ The Guardian, 2006

Born in the belly of time, clueless darkness

to its own being among stars, explosions -

necessary amnesiac to so much energy,

propelling force; thrusting into concept,

life, a sparkling smudge of molecules,

basic elements, that will contemplate

itself, nature of its being, coming to light

in code revealed; the encoded, mysterious

still, extant in flesh, physical and electrical

properties of mind; so soon to be embroiled,

not in the squabbling of galleries, but labs;

in governing principle, controversy storms.

Note from the author
exploring the project

    Gene Story
        Haplotype Map
        Gene Atlas
        Genomic Grids
    Romantic Science
    Some Special Genes
    X & Y

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