A rapt audience of more than 450 New Yorkers gathered at the Secret Science Club in Brooklyn on one unseasonably balmy night in mid-March to listen to tales of gene hunting expeditions by CSHL Professor Alea Mills. She is an expert in chromosome engineering, a technique for developing mouse models of human disease that can help pinpoint key genes and mechanisms.
Mills has successfully used this technique (pdf) to uncover two powerful cancer-related genes: p63, which plays a role in development, aging and suppressing tumor formation; and CHD5, a long-elusive tumor suppressor that is now known to be mutated or deleted in multiple types of cancer.
Mills recently used chromosome engineering to develop a new mouse model of autism that provided the first functional evidence of autism’s genetic basis, showing that the deletion of a 27-gene cluster on chromosome 16 leads to the development of autism-like features in mice. The mice, whose behavior has been documented and analyzed using state-of-the-art video capture, will be invaluable for identifying new diagnostic methods for autism before it becomes a full-blown syndrome as well as for designing clinical interventions. Mills explains all these advances and more in the lecture titled, “Where will the future of genetic engineering take us?”
Written By: Hema Bashyam, Science Writer | firstname.lastname@example.org | 516-367-8455