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UW Scientist’s Paper Will Have First-Ever Primer Accompany in GENETICS Journal


May 8, 2012 — Editors of the scientific journal GENETICS will have a primer accompany a research paper submitted by a University of Wyoming scientist.

Professor David Fay in the Department of Molecular Biology wrote about research using the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans to study the functions of a tumor suppressor gene that is altered in many human cancers.  Fay's paper, written with graduate student Stanley Polley, will be the first paper in GENETICS to have an accompanying primer.

"To be chosen for this honor, David's paper had to be cutting-edge as well as written with unusual clarity," says Mark Stayton, chair of the department in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources. "In other words, GENETICS has chosen the Fay article as a teaching tool in the field of worm genetics."

His paper, "A Network of Genes Antagonistic to the LIN-35 Retinoblastoma Protein of Caenorhabditis elegans," will be published in August.

A primer is a short article published alongside a current research paper. A primer helps genetics educators and students stay up to date with current techniques and approaches. It also provides additional background usually not found in the brief introduction to a research paper.

A tumor suppressor gene reduces the chances a cell will turn into a tumor cell.

The inactivation of the human version of the gene studied is a required step in tumor formation for most cancers in humans, says Fay, who directs the Molecular and Cellular Life Sciences Program at UW.

"Because of its many experimental advantages, we can use the nematode C. elegans to figure out how this gene is working and can also identify additional genes that either oppose or enhance the activities of the tumor suppressor gene," Fay says.

For the paper, Fay and Polley identified genes in worms which, when inactivated, reversed the biological defects caused by loss of the tumor suppressor gene.

"A number of these genes are conserved in humans, possibly paving the way for a new strategy to inhibit tumor growth by inducing cells to behave in a more normal fashion," he says.

Fay speculated a primer will accompany his paper because a number of central concepts in genetics, which would appeal to teachers, are covered.

"Also, perhaps the studies are not so complicated that, with a little help, undergraduate students could get the basic ideas and understand the experiments," Fay says. "Finally, we spent a great deal of time making sure it was well written. Clearly communicating your results is one of the most important skills for any scientist to learn. You can't always control how well your experiments go or what the ultimate impact of your work may be, but you can make sure it's presented accurately and in the best possible light."

Photo:
UW molecular biologist David Fay

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