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Shipman lab develops a biological recorder of gene expression
By UCSF School of Pharmacy Editorial Staff / Thu Aug 11, 2022
The many behaviors, functions, and identities of cells are controlled, in part, by the expression of different genes—some genes for muscle cells, other genes for skin cells, and so on. But recording which genes are expressed at what time has always been a challenge for researchers.
A team led by Seth Shipman, PhD, faculty member in the UCSF Department of Bioengineering and Therapeutic Sciences, has developed a method for recording changes in gene expression over time.
Dubbed the Retro-Cascorder, this biological device records the genetic activity of cells into barcoded strands of DNA over the course of several days. Those DNA strands can then be decoded at a later date.
“DNA is a flexible data storage medium in which you can encode whatever you want. It’s also easy to use it because it already exists within cells,” says Shipman, who is also an investigator in the Gladstone Institutes.
The Retro-Cascorder currently tracks just a few genes at a time, and can only record the order in which genes were turned on but not the time that elapsed between each event. The team is actively developing new methods to expand the system and adapt it for use in cell types other than bacteria.
About the School: The UCSF School of Pharmacy aims to solve the most pressing health care problems and strives to ensure that each patient receives the safest, most effective treatments. Our discoveries seed the development of novel therapies, and our researchers consistently lead the nation in NIH funding. The School’s doctor of pharmacy (PharmD) degree program, with its unique emphasis on scientific thinking, prepares students to be critical thinkers and leaders in their field.