Hunter O'Reilly's name changed January 2009.
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The three above images are kindly provided by Dr. James Ellingboe, editor of Biotechniques to show you the scientific yet also artistic images created in the biological sciences (Copyright © 1999 BioTechniques). The Radioactive Biohazard project contains digital arrangements of fluorescent micrographs of actual cells, viruses and bacteria chosen by Dr. Hunter O'Reilly, highlighted with patterns in neon by Electric Eye Neon.
The Connection Between Art and Genetics
The images of DNA and the growth of cells viewable only under a microscope influences the composition and creation of Hunter's art. In cell culture, mammalian cells grow until they cover the dish all connected to one another. You will see many shapes suggesting cells, human faces and other lifeforms frequently connected to one another in Hunter's abstract paintings.
Detail of "Cartharsis: Facing Yourself" showing a strand of DNA also seen as a man's tie and as part of a larger human face.
Madonna con Clon
Introduction to Hunter O'Reilly's Genetic Research
Hunter studies the regulation of gene transcription. A gene is a segment of DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) that encodes for a segment of RNA (ribonucleic acid). The making of RNA from DNA is called transcription. That segment of RNA encodes for a protein. The making of a protein from RNA is called translation. Your body is made up of proteins. You have digestive enzymes in your stomach which are proteins. You have structural proteins in your skin. What a protein in your body looks like and how much of a particular protein is in your body is determined by your DNA.
You can imagine that if you have too much or too little of a digestive enzyme in your stomach that that may lead to problems in your body. The definition of a gene above is very simplified. A gene includes a segment of DNA which encodes for RNA which encodes for protein, but a gene also includes a segment of DNA which regulates the level of RNA made (This segment of DNA is called a promoter, and it is right next to the segment of DNA that encodes for RNA.) and therefore the level of protein made. Hunter O'Reilly studies how a promoter determines how much RNA is made from the segment of DNA that encodes RNA.
Hunter O'Reilly studies the regulation of gene transcription done by the SV40 late promoter. SV40 is a small DNA tumor virus which infects African green monkey kidney cells. SV40 is made up of a circular piece of DNA surrounded by virion proteins. The SV40 late promoter controls how much virion proteins are made and therefore how many new virus particles can be made.
Transcription from the SV40 late genes is repressed by the binding of host steroid/thyroid hormone receptors to the SV40 late promoter. Hunter O'Reilly studies the mechanism of this repression. Steroid/thyroid hormone receptors are proteins that can bind DNA. A couple examples of steroid/thyroid hormone receptors that repress transcription of the SV40 late genes by binding to the SV40 late promoter include:
thyroid receptor/retinoid X receptor heterodimer (TR/RXR)
estrogen related receptor (ERR).
One of the SV40 early genes makes large T-antigen. T-antigen activates transcription from almost every gene tested including human genes. T-antigen can cause cancer (uncontrolled cell growth) in certain cell types. T-antigen also activates transcription from the SV40 late genes through many different mechanisms. Hunter O'Reilly discovers and studies these mechanisms.
Steroid/thyroid hormone receptors are proteins that bind DNA. These proteins also bind hormones. Whether a steroid/thyroid hormone receptor is binding its hormone will affect the ability of the receptor to bind DNA and its ability to regulate the level of transcription from a particular promoter. More viruses are being found to have transcription of their genes regulated by host proteins that are steroid/thyroid hormone receptors such as HBV (Hepatitus B virus) and HSV (Herpes simplex virus). It is possible that one day hormone or hormone analogs may be used as antiviral drugs.
Below are links to two of Hunter O'Reilly's scientific abstracts as distributed to her peer scientists.
Abstract from the 1997 DNA Tumour Virus Meeting in Cambridge, England
Abstract from a Genetics Colloquium at the University of Wisconsin-Madison
Copyright © 1997-2002 Hunter O'Reilly