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Oregon researchers isolate RNA from specific cells using fruit flies

A team of University of Oregon biologists, using fruit flies, has created a way to isolate RNA from specific cells, opening a new window on how gene expression drives normal development and disease-causing breakdowns.

While DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) provides an identical genetic blueprint in every cell, RNA (ribonucleic acid) decodes genetic instructions that turn protein molecules on and off in different cell types.

The new tagging method, tested in a variety of subsets of Drosophila brain cells, is described in a paper put on line ahead of regular publication by the journal Nature Methods. Instead of scientists needing to physically separate cell types, they now can inject a chemically modified gene from the one-celled organism Toxoplasma gondii and activate it in only one cell type within a tissue. Only newly generated RNA in this cell type is then tagged and isolated.

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