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The Cystic Fibrosis Gene Essay

1262 words - 5 pages

                    
                    The Cystic Fibrosis Gene

     
     Cystic fibrosis is an inherited autosomal recessive disease that exerts its main effects on the digestive system and the lungs. This disease is the most common lethal genetic disorder in Caucasians, affecting one out of 2,500. On the bioethical front, CF was the first human genetic disease to be cloned by geneticists. The intent of this paper is to describe how the cystic fibrosis gene was identified, how the gene is defective, its physical manifestations, and to discuss possible treatments of the disease.
     The classical approach to finding the gene that is responsible for causing a genetic disease is to first characterize the bio-chemical defect within the gene, then to identify the mutated protein in the gene, and finally to locate the actual gene. However, this classical approach proves to be impractical when searching for the CF gene. To find the gene responsible for CF, the principle of "reverse genetics" is applied. Scientists accomplish this by linking the disease to a specific chromosome. After this linkage, they isolate the gene of interest on the chromosome, and then test its product. Before the disease can be linked to a specific chromosome, however, a marker needs to be found that will always travel with the disease. This marker is known as a Restriction Fragment Length Polymorphism, or RFLP for short. RFLP's are varying base sequences of DNA in different individuals which are known to travel with genetic disorders. The RFLP for cystic fibrosis was first discovered through somatic cell hybridization (cell fusing) and southern blot electrophoresis (gel separation of DNA within an electric field). By using these techniques, three RFLP's were discovered for CF: Doc RI, J3.11, and Met. Utilizing hybridization (rapid heating and cooling of RNA with denatured DNA so that the RNA permanently associates with the DNA,) scientists discovered the CF gene to be located on the long arm of chromosome 7q. Soon after identifying these markers, another marker was discovered that frequented more often with CF than the did the other markers. This meant the new RFLP was closer to the CF gene. At that time, two scientists named Lap-Chu Tsui and Francis Collins were able to isolate probes (radioactively marked DNA/RNA sequences used to detect the presence of a complimentary sequence by hybridization) from the gene interval. In order to determine the exact location of the CF gene, probes were taken from the nucleotide sequence obtained from chromosome jumping. To find these probes, horse, cow, chicken, and mouse DNA was separated using Southern Blot electrophoresis. Two probes were found...

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