Research Aims to Help Physicians Diagnose More Precisely

Posted: February 7, 2006 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

By Daniel Walsch

Under a $2.1 million grant from the National Institutes of Health, Jennifer Weller, associate professor of bioinformatics/computational biology in the School of Computational Sciences, will work on perfecting an instrument designed to help physicians more precisely diagnose treatment of diseases.

Weller is co-principal investigator with Cynthia Gibas of the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. Their project, titled “Optimization of Oligonucleotide Array Design,” is approved for funding by the National Institute for General Medical Sciences for five years.

“Our hope with this research is to create more reliable devices that will be of great benefit to doctors as they prescribe actions to take in the treatment of diseases,” says Weller. She and Gibas are working to enhance the design and data analysis aspects of DNA microarrays.

Jennifer Weller
Jennifer Weller in her lab.
Creative Services photo

Microarrays give biologists detailed information about thousands of genes at once. This helps doctors better understand critical differences between diseased and healthy cells. Currently, Weller said, standard methods yield data that is not as precise as doctors need it to be.

Weller’s primary task in this effort is to design and test the model on which this device will ultimately be built. “We expect to provide doctors with new ways to compensate for complex interactions that make interpretation difficult,” she says.

Weller, who joined Mason’s faculty in 2003, earned her doctorate in biochemistry at the University of Montana. Her primary area of research is gene expression analysis.

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