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Gene Map Locates Cancer's Achilles Heel

Update Date: Nov 27, 2015 01:53 PM EST

There is a new gene map that tells us how our genome works and how it can keep our cells alive. It has been completed by researchers at the University of Toronto, and gives us a better grasp on how our genome works, according to Phys.

Researchers explained in the probe, that they have "switched off 90 percent of the human genome one by one."

There is a total of about 18,000 genes. The scientists have found the genes that are fundamental for the survival of the cell. This can help them to determine those genes that are important in treating diseases such as cancer. They have identified 1,500 genes crucial for human survival, as well as groups of genes in cancer cell lines that lead to the growth of tumors. These studies can enable the scientists to build up drugs aimed at particular genetic lines, limiting tumors.

"It's when you get outside the core set of essential genes, that it starts to get interesting in terms of how to target particular genes in different cancers and other disease states," said Jason Moffat, co-author of the study.

An important tool that helped them to arrive at their result was the CRISPR technology that helped in gene editing, enabling them to turn genes on and off, as well as working out the influence of these genes on the body.

"We can now interrogate our genome at unprecedented resolution in human cells that we grow in the lab with incredible speed and accuracy," said Moffat. "In short order, this will lead to a functional map of cancer that will link drug targets to DNA sequence variation."

The genomic information helped Moffat and his team to employ metformin, just a diabetes drug, to kill brain cancer and colorectal cancer cells. Other antibiotics helped to kill alternate types of colorectal cancer.

"The Moffat group has developed a powerful CRISPR library that could be used by investigators around the world to identify new treatment strategies for the treatment of cancer," said Aaron Schimmer, a medical oncologist at Princess Margaret Cancer Centre, who was not part of the study. "I would be interested in using this tool to identify new treatment approaches for acute myeloid leukemia - a blood cancer with a high mortality rate."

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