Tuesday, 9th December, 2003

Book of life contains real DNA

You may have heard of the "book of life", but this is the real thing. An encyclopedia has been published that contains 172 pages of mouse DNA, including all 60,000 known active mouse genes.

Work on a human equivalent has already begun, promising the ultimate in vanity publishing - anyone rich enough could one day pay to have their genome committed to print.

The book's publishers hope it will slash the huge cost of distributing libraries of genetic material to universities and biotech companies around the world. While genetic sequence data can be distributed electronically, DNA itself must be sent by post. A whole genome has to be packaged up in 100 kilograms of dry ice at a cost of up to $5000.

Yoshihide Hayashizaki from the RIKEN Genomic Sciences Centre in Yokohama, Japan, devised a mouse encyclopaedia that looks like an ordinary hardback, but the paper is water-soluble and instead of words, the pages contain a series of dots that hold duplicate copies of the DNA forming the 60,000 known active mouse genes.

To "read" the book, researchers punch out the paper dots containing the DNA clones - copied from the genes expressed in mouse cells - and dissolve them in water.

"The paper disappears and DNA appears," says Hayashizaki. Within a few hours, unlimited copies of the genes can then be made using the DNA amplification technique PCR. Only 10 copies of the mouse encyclopaedia have been published so far.

Alison George, from NEW SCIENTIST Dec 2003

Book of life contains real DNA
logged by alf at 15:17, Tuesday, 9th December, 2003