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Your Environment. Your Health.

News Releases

National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS)

News Release

Archive - New Contact Information

For more information about this archival news release, please contact Christine Flowers, Director, Office of Communications & Public Liaison at (919) 541-3665.
Thursday, July 31, 1997, 12:00 a.m. EDT
Contact: John Peterson, NIEHS
(919) 541-7860

NIEHS Shorcut Isolates and Clones BRCA2 Gene in Yeast; Success Leads to Establishment of Gene Isolation Unit

A team of U.S. and visiting Russian scientists at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences reported today it has used its new "shortcut" means of isolating and cloning genes in common yeast to make quick duplicates of the breast cancer gene BRCA2.

The scientists said the BRCA2 gene-the second gene for breast cancer to be discovered-can be cloned in about two weeks by the new method, compared to previous approaches that typically took a year.

By providing a quick and endless supply of clones of the gene, the new method will enable scientists to study mutant and normal forms of the gene and will "greatly facilitate analysis of the gene and its contribution to breast cancer," diagnosis and gene therapy-the use of genes to modify or cure disease-according to the authors, writing in the July 1997 issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (Vol. 94, pp 7384-7387).

The same journal last year published the team's report of their initial development of the gene isolation and cloning system, known as Transformation-Associated Recombination in Yeast, or TAR for short.

According to the new report, the TAR system has already proven successful for quickly isolating and cloning key disease genes such as the first-discovered breast cancer gene, BRCA1, as well as BRCA2; HPRT, a gene involved in Lesch-Nyhan syndrome, a form of retardation; and rDNA, genes involved in enzyme production.

Michael Resnick, Ph.D., of NIEHS, said the institute, which is a part of the National Institutes of Health, is establishing a Gene Isolation Unit in its Laboratory of Molecular Genetics to exploit the capabilities of the TAR system.

The approach was developed in the NIEHS Chromosome Stability Group by Dr. Resnick in collaboration with two visiting Russian scientists, Vladimer Larionov, Ph.D., and Natasha Kouprina, Ph.D., who are on leave from the Institute of Cytology in St. Petersburg. Dr. Larionov has been named to head the new Gene Isolation Unit within the Resnick lab.

Also collaborating on the isolation of the BRCA2 gene and coauthoring the article were J. Carl Barrett, Ph.D., NIEHS Scientific Director and Chief of the Laboratory of Molecular Carcinogenesis, and Gregory Solomon of this laboratory.

NIEHS scientists made key discoveries in 1994-95 leading to the identification of the first breast cancer gene, BRCA1, and participated in the successful identification of BRCA2 as well.


Pfiesteria Research Grant

DATE: August 19, 1998
TO: Editors/News Directors
FROM: NIEHS Office of Communications, (919) 541-1402

The marine microorganism Pfiesteria piscicida, first discovered in 1991 in connection with a massive fish kill in several river estuaries in North Carolina, has recently been implicated in similar kills in several Eastern Shore tributaries of the Chesapeake Bay. Given the unknown nature of the pfiesteria toxin and its impact on those who live and work near these waterways, researchers are focusing increasing attention on the toxicology and human health effects associated with this microorganism.

To that end, the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, in conjunction with the University of Maryland, is pleased to announce the awarding of a five-year, 6.3 million dollar Pfiesteria research grant to the University's School of Medicine and Center of Marine Biotechnology, and to the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. Also participating in the research project will be NIEHS-funded scientists at the University of Miami Marine and Freshwater Biomedical Sciences Center.

The grant was announced today at a news conference at the University of Maryland School of Medicine at Baltimore. The attached press release describes this comprehensive research project in greater detail.

As evidence of pfiesteria and pfiesteria-like microorganisms in estuarine areas of the Chesapeake has mounted, persons exposed to the affected waterways have reported problems with confusion, forgetfulness, headaches, and skin and respiratory irritation. A study conducted by the University of Maryland researchers - the first neurocognitive assessment of people with environmental exposure to pfiesteria recently published in a medical journal - indicates that those who are heavily exposed to the pfiesteria toxin can develop temporary difficulties in learning and concentrating.

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