Chromos Molecular Systems
Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada

Alan Dove, "Research News: Germline Transmission of Artificial Chromosome," Nature Biotechnology, p. 1149, Vol. 17, No. 12 (December 1999).

At a recent meeting in London (BioPartnering Europe; October 16-18, 1999), Chromos Molecular Systems of Burnaby, British Columbia released preliminary data on a satellite DNA-based artificial chromosome (SAT-DAC) that allows researchers to insert virtually any gene into mammalian cells without the risk of disrupting other genes at the site of integration. The modified chromosome is stably inherited in a transgenic mouse system. While the work could have a broad range of agricultural and clinical applications, it also has bioethicists wringing their hands over the looming possibility of human germline gene therapy. The SAT-DAC technology relies on the ability of an acrocentric chromosome to amplify itself when foreign DNA is inserted. A unique feature of the Chromos system is that the resulting artificial chromosome can be separated from other mammalian chromosomes because of its higher "A-T" content. "There are other groups that have made artificial chromosomes, but they don't have a way of isolating them," explains Carl Perez, director of projects at Chromos. The company plans to use the technology for transgenic livestock and some types of human gene therapy, but Perez stresses that Chromos will not license SAT-DACs for human germline gene therapy.