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Gil Ast, PhD

Gil Ast, PhD

Grant Status

Tel Aviv University

Grant Type
Project Grant

Project Title
Long and short introns reside in different sub-compartments of the nucleus

Tumor Types

Research Topics
Computational Biology, Genetics and Genomics, Men's Cancers, RNA Metabolism

About the Investigator:

Born in Israel, Prof. Ast received his BSc in Biology from Tel Aviv University, his MSc and PhD in Biochemistry from the Weizmann Institute of Science, and performed his postdoctoral studies at Yale University in New Haven, CT, USA.  He is currently a full Professor in the Dept. of Human Molecular Genetics at the Sackler School of Medicine of Tel Aviv University.

About the Research:

All bodily functions are the result of the expression of the DNA found in cells (genetics).  The DNA in our cells gives rise to RNA, which gives rise to proteins, and proteins are the building blocks of all structures and the mediators of all functions in both normal and cancerous cells.  It may seem counterintuitive, but the RNA (the intermediary from DNA to proteins) that is produced from a gene (DNA) is not a copy of the linear DNA molecule.  Rather, it is a composite of modules from here and there along the DNA that make up any particular gene.  These hybrid RNA molecules are called mRNA (messenger RNA) because they carry the message (structure, functional capacity, etc.) from the DNA to the protein.

The process from DNA to RNA to protein first requires a continuous, linear representation of the DNA to be made out of RNA.  Then, non-contiguous modules of RNA are cut out of the long linear RNA and fused together to form a continuous mRNA molecule.  This process is called splicing.

Splicing is a key regulatory mechanism that can determine what proteins are made when, and how much is made.  This process is disturbed in many genetic diseases and in some cancers.  The proposed research seeks to understand how the DNA and corresponding RNA molecules are organized within the nucleus of the cell, a compartment that must function to convert DNA to the precise RNA molecule needed to produce the protein required by the cell.  This research proposal, from one of the leading labs in the world that studies this important biological process, holds the promise that understanding how this organizational arrangement might be disturbed in cancer may ultimately lead to targeted cancer therapies of increased efficacy and decreased side effects.

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