By Wang Zhiyong
A new human gene has been found in the blood of two healthy Cantonese residents, Chinese researcher Xiao Lulu announced on September 10, 2008 in Guangzhou, capital of south China's Guangdong Province.
Prof. Xiao, director of the Tissue Matching Experiment Center of the Guangzhou-based Nanfang Hospital, is the discoverer of this new gene.
She revealed that the gene is located at the short arm of the ninth autosomal chromosome with a length of more than 900 base pairs.
"We completed the research required by the World Health Organization (WHO) in June and then waited for their 'judgment'. On August 28, we received the letter from the WHO confirming our discovery, together with its official name: HLA-B*5159. '51' refers to the 51st gene, and '59' indicates the 59th type of gene pattern," said Prof. Xiao.
The discovery is expected to be published in the latest issues of Tissue Antigens, Human Immunology and International Journal of Immunogenetics, said Prof. Xiao.
Over the previous six months, Prof. Xiao, together with her colleagues, had been working in the laboratory contrasting the base pairs of the gene with over 30 kinds of previously-identified gene patterns, using only manual methods. In due course they were able to confirm that this new gene sequence of bases has never been reported before.
"The probability of a chance discovery of a new gene in the lab is now very rare," Xiao said.
A similar gene shows different forms in different groups of people or different ethnic populations. For example, the base sequence of the gene controlling the color of skin is not the same in white, Asian and black people.
Is "B*5159" gene special to the Cantonese?
"We have only just established that the new gene with its base sequence has not been reported before. The structure of its amino acids, proteins and molecules is different. As to the function of the new gene – that will require further study." said Professor Xiao. "This research may take a very long time."
The chromosome is the genetic "carrier". Genes will determine how a person looks, and their tendency to genetic diseases. The human genome is stored on 23 chromosome pairs. The haploid human genome occupies a total of just over 3 billion DNA base pairs and has a data size of approximately 750 Megabytes.
The Human Genome Project (HGP), an international scientific research project with the goal of decoding human DNA, started in 1990 with the joint participation of scientists from the U.S., Japan, Germany, France, the U.K. and China. In 2000, a working draft of the genome was released to the world.
(China.org.cn September 11, 2008)