And Ivics, who in 1997 reanimated another ancient transposon that he dubbed Sleeping Beauty, showed last year that he could control its insertion site by directing it to specific target sequences. “Even if this technology is not mature enough yet for clinical use, the proof of concept has been done,” he says. Studying how the Harbinger3_DR transposon naturally targets specific sequences may also reveal some useful new techniques.
The cooperation between transposase and the Myb-like protein is “really unusual,” says Tian Xu, a geneticist at the Yale School of Medicine who works with a different transposon, called piggyBac, in mice and in human cells: “This very important study sheds new light on how transposons work.”
Ivics expects the better studied of his progeny, Sleeping Beauty, to be ready in about five years to make her debut in a gene therapy trial.
Note: This story was originally published with the title, "Ancient Gene, New Tricks".