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National Institutes Of Health Awards Johns Hopkins Researcher $11.6 Million For New Research Center

Center for Systems Biology of Retrotransposition will study “jumping genes”

November 2013--The National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS) has awarded $11.6 million over five years to Jef Boeke, Ph.D., professor of molecular biology and genetics at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. The funds (grant # P50GM107632) will be used to create a new national center for systems biology called the Center for Systems Biology of Retrotransposition. The center will focus on the workings of so-called jumping genes, DNA segments that can copy and paste themselves into new areas of the genome. Such segments are key players in the evolution of genomes, including the human genome, but they can cause cancer or other diseases if they happen to interfere with the function of important genes.

Systems biology uses a holistic approach to understanding how individual phenomena fit together to create a working whole, a biological system. The Center for Systems Biology of Retrotransposition will work to model and understand the interactions between organisms and their jumping genes. These genes are emerging as potentially important predictors of complex human traits, including predisposition to disease. The research will shed light on their biology, including where they insert themselves into host genomes, why these insertions are more common in certain cell types and how they contribute to their hosts’ adaptability.

For more information about the NIGMS National Centers for Systems Biology, including descriptions of the other centers, visit the institute's website.

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