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"Sleeping Beauty" named Molecule of the Year

01/26/2010
Tracy Vence

The transposon was chosen by the International Society for Molecular and Cell Biology and Biotechnology Protocols and Research for enabling stable gene transfer in vertebrates.

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The International Society for Molecular and Cell Biology and Biotechnology Protocols and Research (ISMCBBPR) has named “Sleeping Beauty” (SB)/transposase SB100X as Molecule of the Year 2009 as part of its annual competition.

According to the ISMCBBPR, Sleeping Beauty was chosen by voters because researchers have demonstrated its ability to enable robust, stable gene transfer in vertebrates. The synthetic transposon received the top honor over 14 other nominees, including runners-up sarcosine, human occludin protein, and mina. Each nominated molecule was featured during the past year in a peer-reviewed research paper that described the protocol used to decipher its role.

Diagram outlining the life cycle of the "Sleeping Beauty" (SB) transposon. Source: WikiMedia Commons.


SB, when combined with a transposase, mediates the stable integration and long-term expression of a gene of interest. A team of researchers—from the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine in Berlin-Buch and the Catholic University of Leuven, Belgium—demonstrated that SB/SB100X efficiently mediated gene transfer in human CD34+ cells enriched in hematopoietic stem or progenitor cells. The novel transposase was described in the June 2009 Nature Genetics paper, “Molecular evolution of a novel hyperactive Sleeping Beauty transposase enables robust stable gene transfer in vertebrates.”According to the researchers, SB/SB100X has the potential to improve current transfection methods used in functional genomics and gene therapy.

“The synthetic transposon ‘Sleeping Beauty’ and the corresponding hyperactive transposase SB100X bring about a revolutionary technology platform for genetic engineering in vertebrates,” the ISMCBBPR web site reads. “This molecule holds great promise for gene therapy as it addresses a major hurdle in gene therapeutic applications, especially those revealed by viral transduction approaches [and] site-specific integration.”

Seven presidents of international molecular and cellular biology and biotechnology organizations judged the competition. The judges considered each molecule’s potential for future contribution to biology or medical research.

Past awardees include anti-SAG 421-433 catalytic IgA, protein 4E1 , and the ligand Imidazoleacetic acid-ribotide.