Monday, July 19, 2010
ROCHESTER/MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. — The Minnesota Partnership is helping scientists bring obesity research to the people of the state. An obesity research "laboratory on wheels" — complete with the latest equipment — is one of two groundbreaking infrastructure projects recently awarded. The other is state-of-the-art technology to advance genomic studies with zebrafish, a highly versatile animal model for studying genetic aspects of cancer and many other fatal diseases.
The motor home-sized laboratory is the brainchild of James Levine, M.D., Ph.D., Mayo Clinic endocrinologist, and Robert Jeffrey, Ph.D., University of Minnesota epidemiologist. Their plan is to bring obesity research to people in the workplace, to schools and to underserved populations. The lab will be equipped with equipment to measure calorie expenditure, body mass and fat content indexes, and to collect survey data. Nearly 30 ongoing research studies at Mayo and the University could benefit from the mobile lab. The infrastructure award for this project is $900,000 over two years.
The technology that will help genetic researchers pinpoint causes of inherited disease is called ZFN. That stands for zinc finger nuclease technology, a special type of enzymes that can be customized to accurately cut DNA sequences of interest. This "molecular scissors" is valuable in modifying cells for research studies. Researchers Daniel Voytas, Ph.D., at the University of Minnesota, and Steven Ekker, Ph.D., at Mayo Clinic, will develop this gene-targeting resource with facilities at both institutions. The ZFN capability will allow sourcing at a fraction of the cost from outside suppliers. The $1 million award will underwrite the platforms, which potentially could benefit at least 18 current research projects at the two institutions.
Minnesota Partnership competitive infrastructure grants are awarded annually, based on funding from the Minnesota legislature. As with all Partnership awards, the proposals must reflect true collaboration, show the value of the project and demonstrate that it is an initiative that could not be accomplished by either institution alone.
The Minnesota Partnership for Biotechnology and Medical Genomics is a collaboration among the University of Minnesota, Mayo Clinic and the state of Minnesota. Learn more about the Partnership.
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