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By the Book: A Novel Way to Send DNA
By Nancy Touchette

An international genome consortium has come up with a novel way to distribute more than 60,000 samples of DNA: spot them on the pages of a book. Researchers can literally cut out spots of DNA and use them in their experiments.

The DNA book grew out of an international consortium orchestrated by RIKEN, a national research institute in Yokohama, Japan, to characterize all the genes active in the mouse genome. The Functional Annotation of the Mouse (FANTOM) Consortium published the results of this collaborative effort in the June issue of Genome Research.

To test the feasibility of distributing DNA embedded in a book on a massive scale, the journal’s publishers included a page in the recent issue that contains samples of 12 genes involved in citric acid metabolism.

“The readers of Genome Research are guinea pigs,” says Yoshihide Hayashizaki, project director for the FANTOM Consortium. “We are asking them to extract the DNA and send us their data. This will tell us whether DNA samples arrive in suitable condition.”

RIKEN researchers developed the book because they were inundated with requests for samples of the mouse genes characterized by the consortium. Scientists typically exchange DNA samples through the mail in small vials packed in dry ice. This method is prohibitively expensive for sending out millions of DNA samples.

Genes are attached to the pages of a "DNA book" for easy delivery to interested readers.

More than 60,000 cloned genes identified by the FANTOM Consortium have been imprinted on the pages of a single volume, The RIKEN Mouse Genome Encyclopedia DNA Book/First Edition, which was prepared by spotting DNA samples by hand.

RIKEN has prepared a similar book of human genes involved in metabolism, and a second volume of human genes involved in transcription is under way.

The RIKEN researchers are now developing a printer that can produce DNA-containing pages automatically. The initial press run for the mouse encyclopedia is for 200 volumes.

—Related Links—

FANTOM home page

DNA book home page

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Kawai, J., and Y. Hayashizaki. DNA book. Genome Research 13, 1488-1495 (June 2003).

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