The US Patent Office issued Patent # 6,872,552, "A Method of Reconstituting Nucleic Acid Molecules" today to Burt D. Ensley, Ph.D, Chairman of MatrixDesign, and CEO of DermaPlus, Inc. The patent covers methods for recovering and reconstituting genes from "degraded" DNA samples, and could allow scientists to reassemble everything from prehistoric, extinct animals to unsolved crime scenes.
"This discovery, when properly applied by our scientists, brings us closer to our goal of reconstructing genetic history. We now have the picture on the outside of the puzzle box, and by stringing together the pieces of aged DNA, we should be able to reconstruct genes from animals such as the wooly mammoth, giant sloth, saber-toothed cat or even from tissues of the Tyrannosaurus rex that was described last Friday in the journal Science," says Dr. Ensley. Brenda Jarrell, Ph.D., Patent Attorney and Partner at the law firm of Choate, Hall & Stewart remarks, "This is the first patent of its kind to be allowed by the US Patent Office"
Dr. Ensley believes that one of the first applications could be in forensic science, where time, the traumatic circumstances of a crime scene or the environment has caused DNA samples to become degraded. "We hope this gives criminal investigators another tool to re-open cold cases or revisit crime scenes, stringing together strands of detached DNA into a genetic trail that could solve a crime or exonerate the falsely accused," says Dr. Ensley.
This patent is part of a scientific progression that began in 1989 when DNA was recovered from 12 samples of ancient organic remains, ranging in age from 4 to 13,000 years. The remains included several Egyptian mummies and two extinct species -- the marsupial wolf and ground sloth. Plant DNA up to 400,000 years old, and DNA from the extinct mammoth and steppe bison have been recovered from Siberian sediments. In 1997, Patent #5,593,883 was granted to Ambergene Corporation for the recovery of live ancient bacteria and fungi fossilized in amber.
By reconstituting nucleic acid molecules that have been degraded but still contain useful information scientists at MatrixDesign are able to create a template from which to multiply the genetic material. That process is repeated until the genetic material is substantially representative -- at microscopic levels -- of the species from which the degraded sample was obtained.
Dr. Ensley and his team hope to apply this new technology to products they will make available later this year. "We don't plan to turn house cats into saber tooth cats or create a Jurassic Theme Park anytime soon. But we do think this breakthrough has many applications yet to be discovered and we look forward to working with our colleagues to thoroughly examine all the possibilities," says Dr. Ensley.
Dr. Ensley is the Chairman of MatrixDesign, a biotechnology company that analyzes the genomics of human tissues and uses the information to produce high performance wound healing and tissue regeneration products, and the CEO of DermaPlus, a science-based skin care company. Dr. Ensley is a Fellow of the American Academy of Microbiology and holds an Adjunct Professorship at the University of Arizona.
PharmaLive. March 2005.