Finding Genes That Fit
The hopes for millions of families suffering from genetically based disorders sit frozen in 50 gleaming metal cryotanks in a five-year-old facility on the Busch Campus. The Rutgers University Cell and DNA Repository, part of the Department of Genetics, is the world's leading bank for genetic material. The RNA, DNA, and cell lines in storage are available for use by researchers searching for the causes of, as well as cures for, hundreds of inheritable diseases, from diabetes and kidney disease to depression, schizophrenia, and alcoholism. Recently, samples supplied by the center resulted in identifying genes responsible for autism and Crohn's disease and, in a turn of events that director Jay Tischfield describes as "very uplifting," have helped researchers find a potential treatment for progeria, a rare childhood ailment that causes premature aging and early death.
NIH Awards Rutgers Cell and DNA Repository $57.8 Million
Rutgers University Cell and DNA Repository
Insulation against Destruction
Healing a damaged spinal cord, slowing the course of multiple sclerosis, preventing diabetics' numbed limbs from dying: these tasks demand a deeper understanding of myelin, the insulating structure that helps nerves conduct electrical signals. Haesun Kim, assistant professor of biological sciences at Rutgers–Newark, studies how the body creates and destroys myelin, and how it may lead to drug treatments for common afflictions. "We have to find what happens within the cell, at the molecular level, that leads to myelin destruction," Kim says.
The Cartographer of Genetics
Tara Matise is building on knowledge gleaned from the Human Genome Project, a 13-year federal effort to identify all of the genes in human DNA. The Rutgers computational geneticist constructs genetic linkage maps and writes computer programs that may help pinpoint DNA differences that predispose people to diseases such as schizophrenia, osteoporosis, alcoholism, and diabetes. She's also looking for genes that control female reproductive aging and markers that may play a role in infertility. Matise was recently tapped by the National Human Genome Research Institute of the National Institutes of Health as the principal investigator of its coordinating center for specific genetic-variant research.