Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Robot deployed to help analyse effects of mutated gene enhancer regions on development

14 November 2020

Flying Robot

Genetic engineering is part art, part science. Making specific changes or mutations to DNA requires a careful design, steady hands in the lab and resilience to try and try again should painstaking work go awry. Even then, analysing the effects of many different mutations is a huge task. To meet the challenge, researchers taught a robot – “The Hybridiser” – to take over some of the lab work. In this fruit fly (Drosophila melanogaster), the robot helps to analyse mutated enhancers – regions of DNA (highlighted in pink) that change the behaviour of a gene called shavenbaby (highlighted in green) important in the development of this fly embryo. Using robots to assist studies of different mutations will help researchers to spot important patterns in the fly’s genetics, and also our own. We share many genes with drosophila and a human form of shavenbaby is involved in our development too.

Written by John Ankers

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