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UT Arlington unveils advanced genome sequencer

News Release — 9 December 2009

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Media contact: Sue Stevens, (817) 272-3317, sstevens@uta.edu

ARLINGTON - The Department of Biology genomics research group at The University of Texas at Arlington introduces its newest tool, a state-of-the art genome sequencer, at an open house from 1:30 to 4:30 p.m., Friday, Dec. 11, in the Genomics Core Facility in Room B24, Life Sciences Building, 501 S. Nedderman Drive.

The ability to sequence genomes, the complex set of chromosomes that make up human beings and organisms is critical for understanding what makes each individual unique and offers new insight into improving human health. The state-of-the art Roche GS FLX 454 sequencer, the only one in North Texas, significantly increases sequencing capacity. 

"To put it into perspective, the Human Genome Project required tens of thousands of researcher hours and seven years to complete.  If a 454 had been available, one person could have sequenced the entire human genome in about five months," said facilities director Dr. Raymond Jones.

Associate Professor Cedric Feschotte said the high capacity sequencing opens many new doors for research. Feschotte said his research team is gearing up to sequence the genome of several blood-feeding arthropods, including ticks and bedbugs, that they suspect act as vectors for the transmission of mobile genetic elements (or jumping genes) from species to species and, in particular, to mammals.

"The 454 provides us with an unprecedented opportunity to test directly this hypothesis at an affordable cost and in a matter of days," Feschotte said. "The results may have profound biomedical implications, since these arthropods are also vectors of microorganisms causing severe disease in human and livestock." 

Assistant Professor Jeff Demuth focuses on reproductive isolation between populations of the red flour beetle, a ubiquitous pest in stored products as a model for understanding the genetics of complex traits such as those that result in human diseases. Demuth will use the high capacity sequencing to measure genome-wide variation among natural populations and how that variation results in developmental abnormalities when combined in inter-population hybrids.

"This will help us understand the complex genetic traits that result in human disease," Demuth said.

The genomics research group was formed in 2005 when UT Arlington received a grant from the University of Texas System to buy research equipment, including a then-state-of-the-art genome sequencer.

In the last four years, researchers have made numerous discoveries that have been published in prestigious journals, including the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science. The new half-million dollar sequencer, which will enable researchers to accelerate the pace of their work, is another milestone in UT Arlington's mission of becoming a nationally recognized Tier One research institution.

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