Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                         CONTACT:
May 6, 1994                                       Michael Schneider
                                                  Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center

Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center Hosts
International Workshop on Chromosome 16

PITTSBURGH -- The Third International Workshop on Chromosome 16 will be held May 7-10 at the Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center. The workshop brings together the principal contributors worldwide, including scientists from Great Britain, the Netherlands and Australia, working on constructing maps of chromosome 16, one of 23 chromosomes that constitute the human genetic makeup.

Among the genes already mapped to chromosome 16 is one that is responsible for an inherited brain disease of childhood and another that is believed to be important in the progression of breast and prostate cancer. Researchers will present and discuss the latest findings on these and other disease-related genes.

The workshop provides an open forum for scientists representing all aspects of chromosome 16 research to share information and work toward the goals of the Human Genome Project. Researchers will present new findings since the last chromosome 16 workshop, February 1992 in Australia, and in small working groups they will attempt to resolve any inconsistencies in data.

"This is very much a working meeting," said Norman Doggett of Los Alamos National Laboratory, Chromosome 16 editor for the Genome Data Base and organizer of the workshop. Workshop participants will use the computer facilities and network access at the Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center to enter mapping data compiled at the workshop into the Genome Data Base, a central repository for human genome data at Johns Hopkins University. Published proceedings will also be made available so that researchers worldwide will have access to current information.

The human genome is composed of about three billion base-pairs of DNA, comprising roughly 100,000 genes divided among 23 chromosomes. Chromosome 16 contains 98 million base-pairs, slightly smaller than the average chromosome. The Human Genome Project aims to create two kinds of maps of this information. A "genetic map" serves as a road atlas to locate markers of genetic traits along the chromosome. A "physical map" provides the pieces of DNA that can be copied for detailed study. The two maps complement each other in the effort to locate disease-related genes. The gene that causes juvenile-onset Batten disease has been mapped to chromosome 16. This is one among four different types of a progressive neurodegenerative disease (neuronal ceroid lipofuscinosis) affecting one in 12,500 births, the most common inherited childhood brain disease. A consortium of researchers from London, the Netherlands, Boston, Australia and Los Alamos National Laboratory are collaborating in the effort to clone this gene.

Researchers have found that a region of chromosome 16 is missing in breast and prostate cancer cells. This indicates that a gene on chromosome 16, which suppresses formation of tumors in normal cells, allows cell growth to go unchecked once it is lost. Research groups from the Netherlands and San Francisco are working to narrow the search to the particular stretch of genetic material that has this affect on malignant cell growth, and they will present their latest findings at the workshop. The workshop is funded by the U.S. Department of Energy, which along with the National Institutes of Health, is one of the major funding sources for the Human Genome Project.

The Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center, a joint project of Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Pittsburgh together with Westinghouse Electric Corporation, was established in 1986 by a grant from the National Science Foundation with support from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Its purpose is to develop and make available state-of-the-art high-performance computing for scientific researchers nationwide.

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