Gems in the Genomes?

rom a medical standpoint, one of the most exciting challenges will be to capitalize on the rapidly accruing genomic information and use that knowledge to develop new drugs and therapies. The potential gains are tremendous, particularly in the face of increasing resistance to current antimicrobial drugs. For example, by studying the genomes of pathogenic microorganisms, scientists can learn more about specific genes that enable an organism to cause disease. Already we know that many of these are encoded in large segments called pathogenicity islands and that the genes in these segments are often coordinately regulated. By learning more about the signals and mechanisms that turn these genes on and off, scientists may be able to one day design a drug that prevents the synthesis of critical bacterial proteins. Such a drug could interfere with that pathogen's ability to survive within our body and thereby render it harmless. ■ resistance to antimicrobial drugs, p. 511

Learning more about the human genome provides another means of developing drug therapies. Already, companies are searching genomic databases, a process called genome mining, to locate ORFs that may encode proteins of medical value. What they generally look for are previously uncharacterized proteins that have certain sequence similarities to proteins of proven therapeutic value. Some of their discoveries are now in clinical trials to test their efficacy. For example, a protein involved in bone-building is being tested as a treatment for osteoporosis. Likewise, another protein discovered through genome mining may facilitate the healing of wounds. Genes encoding many other medically useful proteins are probably still hidden, waiting to be discovered.

7.1 Overview (Figure 7.1) Characteristics of DNA (Figure 7.3)

1. A single strand of DNA has a 5' end and a 3' end; the two strands of DNA in the double helix are antiparallel; they are oriented in opposite directions.

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