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Yeast yields clues to human diseases

26 February 2002
By BioNews
Appeared in BioNews 146

An international team of scientists, led by Professor Sir Paul Nurse, the British researcher who was co-winner of a Nobel Prize last year, has announced that it has decoded the genome of a type of yeast. The study is reported in the science journal Nature and is likely to have major implications for cancer and other medical research.

The yeast, known as 'fission yeast' is used in some parts of Africa for making a banana-based beer. However, the scientists have shown that it may also be a good model for studying human diseases. Fission yeast cells are similar to human cells but easier to study, meaning that they can be studied to see the functions of each gene and how they may be involved in diseases that affect humans. The yeast has at least 50 genes which are similar to those involved in some human diseases, including cancer, cystic fibrosis, hereditary deafness and diabetes.

Professor Nurse, the joint director general of Cancer Research UK, said 'significantly, many decisions that the humble yeast cell makes in cell division use genes that are closely related to genes implicated in human cancers. This small organism could prove vital in helping to better understand and treat cancer and other diseases.'

SOURCES & REFERENCES
Yeast genome shares 50 genes with human diseases
British Medical Journal |  23 February 2002
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