'Gene Repair' Breakthrough -
Scientists Turn Albino Mice Black

WASHINGTON (AFP) - U.S. researchers using genetic engineering have turned albino mice black, giving hope to sufferers of hereditary diseases caused by genetic mutation, the review Nature Biotechnology reported in its latest edition out Monday.
The research team led by Kyonggeun Yoon at Philadelphia's Thomas Jefferson University succeeded in turning several all-white mice black by an experimental "gene repair" technique that fixes a genetic mutation, the review reported.
The technique corrects a single alteration, or mutation, in a gene responsible for skin color in mice.
The defective gene failed to produce an enzyme involved in making melanin, the agent which changes the colour of skin.
"Melanin-producing cells become normal, changing albino to black," said Yoon. "Once the mutation is corrected, it takes five or six days for the entire biochemical process to begin producing melanin."
Researchers established that the gene correction was permanent and inheritable.
The work holds promise for some sufferers of hereditary diseases caused by genetic mutation, Nature Biotechnology said.
The technique was developed several years ago and centers on directing the body's natural system of DNA repair through a mechanism that finds anomalies in DNA and fixes them.
Yoon's team said the gene-repair technique has yet to be perfected.
"Skin is an ideal organ on which to test this technology since it is accessible and can be monitored," said Yoon, but "much more research is needed to improve the design and make this technology generally applicable."