Researchers at the Institute for Research in Biomedicine (IRB Barcelona) have identified the gene GATA 6 as responsible for epithelial cells which group together and are static- losing adhesion and moving towards a new site. This process, which is common to developing organisms, is very similar to one that occurs in metastasis, when tumour cells escape from the original tumour and invade new tissue. "This process explains why Gata 6 is found in cancers of the liver, pancreas and colon, thus allowing tumour cells to acquire metastatic properties", stresses Jordi Casanova, CSIC professor and head of the Drosophila Morphogenesis Group at IRB Barcelona, where the study has been conducted. The journal Developmental Cell is to publish the results of this study this week. In addition, Gata 6 triggers a genetic programme that favours the survival and adaptation of cells in new tissue.
Poets might scoff at the notion that heart and brain are closely related, but scientists led by those at Baylor College of Medicine say a genetic defect that affects the brain can stop a heart. In a study published in the journal Science Translational Medicine, BCM researchers and colleagues found that heart problems that occur in nearly 20 percent of children with Rett syndrome, a neurological disorder, originate because the Rett gene (MeCP2) is lost in nerve cells - not in heart muscle cells. "The finding in mice opens the door to tailoring treatments to prevent heart rhythm problems and even deaths in girls with the disorder, " said Dr. Jeffrey Neul, associate professor of pediatrics at BCM, a researcher at the Jan and Dan Duncan Neurological Research Institute at Texas Children's Hospital and the assistant medical director of the Blue Bird Circle Rett Clinic.
Researchers at Albert Einstein College of Medicine () of Yeshiva University have discovered the first known mechanism by which cells control the survival of messenger RNA (mRNA) arguably biology's most important molecule. The findings pertain to mRNAs that help regulate cell division and could therefore have implications for reversing cancer's out-of-control cell division. The research is described in today's online edition of the journal Cell. "The fate of the mRNA molecules we studied resembles a Greek tragedy, " said the study's senior author, Robert Singer, Ph.D., co-director of the Gruss Lipper Biophotonics Center and professor and co-chair of anatomy and structural biology at Einstein. "Their lifespans are determined at the moment of their birth." The study was carried out in yeast cells using advanced microscope technology developed previously by Dr.
Working with genetically engineered mice, Johns Hopkins researchers have discovered that a gene (SIRT1) linked to slowing the aging process in cells also appears to dramatically delay the onset of Huntington's disease (HD) and slow the progression of the relentless neurodegenerative disorder. HD in humans is a rare, fatal disorder caused by a mutation in a single gene and marked by progressive brain damage. Symptoms, which typically first appear in midlife, include jerky twitch-like movements, coordination troubles, psychiatric disorders and dementia. Although the gene responsible for HD was identified in 1993, much is still unknown about the biology of the disease. There is no cure, and there are no effective treatments. In studying two separate mouse models of HD, the Johns Hopkins team found that mice bred with Huntington's disease and a greater than usual amount of the enzyme whose blueprint is carried by the SIRT1 gene had improved motor function and reduced brain atrophy.
The identification of genes that contribute to a susceptibility to complex neuropsychiatric disorders such as schizophrenia, major depression and bipolar disorders has been not very successful using conventional genetic approach. There are several problems associating with this conventional approach including carriers of genes cannot be identified in the absence of manifest symptoms and the heterogeneity of neuropsychiatric disorders. A new direction that appears encouraging is the identification of neurobiological or neurobehavioural characteristics associated with these complex neuropsychiatric disorders, or endophenotypes, that may be more closely linked to gene expression. Endophenotype is a biomarker associating with genetic components as well as the clinical symptoms of neuropsychiatric disorders.