The nematode (Caenorhabditis elegans) is a small, about 1 millimetre in length, roundworm used as a model organism in genetic research. Its genome was the first multicellular metazoan to be completely sequenced, in 1998, and almost half of its genes have homologs in humans – genes, which have comparable functions and common origins over evolutionary time.
Donald Moerman, a professor of zoology at the University of British Columbia, is project leader of Efficient identification and cloning of single gene deletions in the nematode C. elegans.
In collaboration with the international C. elegans knockout consortium, Moerman will develop a resource of mutant strains of the nematode by deleting, or knocking out genes. In some cases, the research team will knock out genes specific to the nematode. Such genes are potentially important from both a human health perspective and because nematodes are major agricultural pests. Targeting such genes may lead to the development of species-specific nematicides.
In other cases, the team will knock out genes with homologs in humans. Many biochemical pathways are conserved between the nematode and humans. Because of the simplicity of the nematode it is often easier to determine the role of specific genes in existing and novel biochemical pathways than it is in humans. A better understanding of the basic biological function of genes in the nematode could have direct consequences for medical diagnosis and treatment of inherited diseases in humans, such as cancer.
This project will create a valuable resource for the international research community. Nematodes can be frozen, which means that the mutant strains developed by Moerman’s research team will be an enduring legacy for the research community.
Integrated GE3LS Research: Assessing the use and impact of genomic resources released into the public domain
GE3LS Project Leaders: Lily Farris, University of British Columbia
The aim of this GE3LS project is to track the use of data and research materials produced by the C. elegans Gene Knockout Consortium (GKC) in order to understand how public domain information is accessed, used and incorporated into scientists’ work.
Researchers, funding bodies and society debate the benefits of moving scientific knowledge into the public domain as a means to maximize accessibility. By making basic research publically available, opportunities are created for new scientific innovation to be developed. We are working to provide examples of the uptake from the public domain by focusing on the use of one particular research project’s body of publicly released data. By tracking the use of this openly available data source we are able to better understand how an open science system functions. Using the C. elegans Gene Knockout Consortium (GKC) and the community of researchers who use C. elegans as a case study we are exploring how information is distributed through the public domain by tracking the products (publications and patents) that arise from these freely released materials.
The C. elegans GKC was created in 2001 as a central large-scale production system used to generate C. elegans with knocked out or deleted genes creating the tools and worm strains with which other researchers can address specific basic biological and disease-related problems.The consortium is a prime example of public domain science in action as it shares all data and reagents with the public prior to publication. Genetic material, data and worms are made freely available to everyone, without restrictions from copyright, patents or other proprietary mechanisms.
This GE3LS research project will explore the social and legal impact of the GKC and its practice of releasing data into the public domain. Members of the GE3LS team are analyzing how the GKC distributes worms (and their genetic data) in order to understand the downstream impact of this practice. Through the analysis of publications and patents which reference the use of C. elegans and the knockout consortium we aim to illustrate the process and exchange networks through which this upstream open science system functions.