SITE VISIT: Dipping Into DNA Chips

Science  06 Aug 1999:
Vol. 285, Issue 5429, pp. 799
DOI: 10.1126/science.285.5429.799d

Many biologists are buzzing these days over gene microarrays: tiny chips a couple of centimeters across dotted with thousands of DNA snippets from the coding regions of genes. Pour on a sample containing bits of fluorescently labeled DNA that have been expressed in a cell, and the bits will stick to the genes that have matching sequences. The bright spots will then tell you which genes have been turned on. This pattern of expression offers clues to what makes a neuron a neuron, or a prostate cancer cell divide. The Gene-Chips home page offers a nuts-and-bolts description and links about this hot new technology.

Gene-Chips is run by computational chemist Leming Shi, “a fan” of DNA arrays who works as a contractor for the Food and Drug Administration. The site's design is simple yet effective: It's one long page of text sprinkled with hyperlinks. Shi describes how the chips work, the basic setup (robotics for making chips, labeled DNA probes, fluorescence reader, software), who sells them, and applications, which include drug discovery and toxicology. Links to review articles and scores of academic labs and companies provide more details. Patrick Brown's page at Stanford, for instance, has a manual on how to build your own microarray maker. A Cornell site offers a slew of online review articles, and a National Institutes of Health page describes its microarray project. And in one interesting application, a University of Arizona lab used the chips to see which genes are turned on in spermatogenesis in C. elegans worms.

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