Genes in Corn Help Researchers Understand Human Disease, says new Associate Director of UA Institute for Biomedical Science
Vicki Chandler, PhD, is an expert in the genetics of corn. She and her plant science colleagues at the University of Arizona and elsewhere have identified about 30,000 of the 50,000 genes in corn and developed tools to determine their function.
That new understanding could have huge implications when you realize that corn is the most important economic crop in the United States and that cereal crops like corn contribute roughly 70 percent of the calories in the human diet.
But there's more. Turns out that the regulation of genes in corn and humans is similar. So similar that Dr. Chandler's work has application to medical research. Understanding how gene functions turn on or off in plants like corn can help biomedical researchers understand the genetics of disease in humans. "It's very clear that what's going on in plants is going on in all organisms," Dr. Chandler said.
That's what makes Dr. Chandler such a good fit at the UA Institute for Biomedical Science and Biotechnology (IBSB). She has been named an associate director at IBSB, and will be one of the first scientists to relocate her research to the Institute's new building, scheduled for completion in the next few years. She and others will share high-technology equipment and other research support systems. They also will share ideas.
IBSB is a collaboration involving five UA colleges, including Medicine and Agriculture and Life Sciences. IBSB director Thomas Baldwin, PhD, believes bringing scientists from different disciplines together with cutting-edge technology will create the environment conducive to major conceptual advances. "Researchers will interact, discover, analyze and invent together," Dr. Baldwin said. "It is a climate for scientific breakthrough."
The Institute for Biomedical Science and Biotechnology is dedicated to creating a climate that facilitates the advancement of high-technology molecular life sciences research and education to improve human health and well being and to stimulate biology-based industrial development in Arizona.