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GEN News Highlights : Aug 26, 2013

Haplogen, CeMM Offer Huge Collection of Mutant Cell Lines

Antiviral therapy-focused biotech firm Haplogen and CeMM, the Center for Molecular Medicine of the Austrian Academy of Sciences, are making a collection of human cell lines available that are deficient for single genes. Haplogen and CeMM have been building the collection over the past three years as part of a public-private partnership, and, through Haplogen, the partnership plans to distribute requested cell lines to the research community.

The collection and the technological advances that enabled its development were published in Nature Methods on August 25 with the title “A reversible gene trap collection empowers haploid genetics in human cells.” Using gene-trap mutagenesis in near-haploid human cells, researchers established a platform to generate and isolate individual “gene-trapped cells” and used it to prepare a collection of human cell lines carrying single gene-trap insertions. This growing library covers 3,396 genes—one-third of the expressed genome—is DNA-barcoded, and reportedly allows systematic screens for a range of cellular phenotypes. The collection will continue to expand until all the genes have been targeted.

Haplogen and CeMM say that cell lines of human origin are all vastly different from each other, often making them very difficult to control when performing genetic experiments, which can limit their use for drug discovery efforts and discovering the function of genes. This new collection, they say, circumvents this problem by providing individual gene mutations in an otherwise identical genetic background.

“This collection will fuel research in molecular medicine where the vast majority of human genes remain poorly understood and await functional characterization,” said Prof. Giulio Superti-Furga, director of the CeMM who initiated this project, in a statement. “Obtaining human cells where an individual gene is inactivated has so far been difficult and very tedious. With this largest human cell line collection available to date we expect to drive countless scientific discoveries in the research community.”

The cell line collection also received financial support from ZIT (technology agency of the city of Vienna).