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Posts Tagged ‘genetic disorder’


Ribozymes and RNA Machines –  Work of Jennifer A. Doudna

Reporter: Aviva Lev-Ari, PhD, RN

 

UPDATED 3/27/2014

New DNA-editing technology spawns bold UC initiative

http://newscenter.berkeley.edu/2014/03/18/new-dna-editing-technology-spawns-bold-uc-initiative/

Crispr Goes Global

http://vcresearch.berkeley.edu/news/profile/doudna_jennifer

UPDATED 3/5/2014

Double Nicking by RNA-Guided CRISPR Cas9 for Enhanced Genome Editing Specificity

http://www.cell.com/retrieve/pii/S0092867413010155

One-Step Generation of Mice Carrying Mutations in Multiple Genes by CRISPR/Cas-Mediated Genome Engineering

http://www.cell.com/retrieve/pii/S0092867413004674

RNA-Guided Human Genome Engineering via Cas9

http://www.sciencemag.org/content/suppl/2013/01/03/science.1232033.DC1

SOURCE

From: Expert CRISPR/Cas9 Publications <Expert_CRISPRCas9_Publications@mail.vresp.com>
Date: Tue, 04 Mar 2014 17:03:01 +0000
To: <avivalev-ari@alum.berkeley.edu>
Subject: CRISPR-mediated gene editing resources

 

UPDATED on 11/10/2013

Exclusive: ‘Jaw-dropping’ breakthrough hailed as landmark in fight against hereditary diseases as Crispr technique heralds genetic revolution

Development to revolutionise study and treatment of a range of diseases from cancer, incurable viruses such as HIV to inherited genetic disorders such as sickle-cell anaemia and Huntington’s disease

SCIENCE EDITOR

Thursday 07 November 2013

A breakthrough in genetics – described as “jaw-dropping” by one Nobel scientist – has created intense excitement among DNA experts around the world who believe the discovery will transform their ability to edit the genomes of all living organisms, including humans.

Click image above to enlarge graphic

The development has been hailed as a milestone in medical science because it promises to revolutionise the study and treatment of a range of diseases, from cancer and incurable viruses to inherited genetic disorders such as sickle-cell anaemia and Down syndrome.

For the first time, scientists are able to engineer any part of the human genome with extreme precision using a revolutionary new technique called Crispr, which has been likened to editing the individual letters on any chosen page of an encyclopedia without creating spelling mistakes. The landmark development means it is now possible to make the most accurate and detailed alterations to any specific position on the DNA of the 23 pairs of human chromosomes without introducing unintended mutations or flaws, scientists said.

The technique is so accurate that scientists believe it will soon be used in gene-therapy trials on humans to treat incurable viruses such as HIV or currently untreatable genetic disorders such as Huntington’s disease. It might also be used controversially to correct gene defects in human IVF embryos, scientists said.

Until now, gene therapy has had largely to rely on highly inaccurate methods of editing the genome, often involving modified viruses that insert DNA at random into the genome – considered too risky for many patients.

The new method, however, transforms genetic engineering because it is simple and easy to edit any desired part of the DNA molecule, right down to the individual chemical building-blocks or nucleotides that make up the genetic alphabet, researchers said.

“Crispr is absolutely huge. It’s incredibly powerful and it has many applications, from agriculture to potential gene therapy in humans,” said Craig Mello of the University of Massachusetts Medical School, who shared the 2006 Nobel Prize for medicine for a previous genetic discovery called RNA interference.

“This is really a triumph of basic science and in many ways it’s better than RNA interference. It’s a tremendous breakthrough with huge implications for molecular genetics. It’s a real game-changer,” Professor Mello told The Independent.

“It’s one of those things that you have to see to believe. I read the scientific papers like everyone else but when I saw it working in my own lab, my jaw dropped. A total novice in my lab got it to work,” Professor Mello said.

In addition to engineering the genes of plants and animals, which could accelerate the development of GM crops and livestock, the Crispr technique dramatically “lowers the threshold” for carrying out “germline” gene therapy on human IVF embryos, Professor Mello added.

The new method of gene therapy makes it simple and easy to edit any desired part of the DNA molecule (Getty Creative)

The new method of gene therapy makes it simple and easy to edit any desired part of the DNA molecule (Getty Creative) Germline gene therapy on sperm, eggs or embryos to eliminate inherited diseases alters the DNA of all subsequent generations, but fears over its safety, and the prospect of so-called “designer babies”, has led to it being made illegal in Britain and many other countries.

The new gene-editing technique could address many of the safety concerns because it is so accurate. Some scientists now believe it is only a matter of time before IVF doctors suggest that it could be used to eliminate genetic diseases from affected families by changing an embryo’s DNA before implanting it into the womb.

“If this new technique succeeds in allowing perfectly targeted correction of abnormal genes, eliminating safety concerns, then the exciting prospect is that treatments could be developed and applied to the germline, ridding families and all their descendants of devastating inherited disorders,” said Dagan Wells, an IVF scientist at Oxford University.

“It would be difficult to argue against using it if it can be shown to be as safe, reliable and effective as it appears to be. Who would condemn a child to terrible suffering and perhaps an early death when a therapy exists, capable of repairing the problem?” Dr Wells said.

The Crispr process was first identified as a natural immune defence used by bacteria against invading viruses. Last year, however, scientists led by Jennifer Doudna at the University of California, Berkeley, published a seminal study showing that Crispr can be used to target any region of a genome with extreme precision with the aid of a DNA-cutting enzyme called CAS9.

Since then, several teams of scientists showed that the Crispr-CAS9 system used by Professor Doudna could be adapted to work on a range of life forms, from plants and nematode worms to fruit flies and laboratory mice.

Earlier this year, several teams of scientists demonstrated that it can also be used accurately to engineer the DNA of mouse embryos and even human stem cells grown in culture. Geneticists were astounded by how easy, accurate and effective it is at altering the genetic code of any life form – and they immediately realised the therapeutic potential for medicine.

“The efficiency and ease of use is completely unprecedented. I’m jumping out of my skin with excitement,” said George Church, a geneticist at Harvard University who led one of the teams that used Crispr to edit the human genome for the first time.

“The new technology should permit alterations of serious genetic disorders. This could be done, in principle, at any stage of development from sperm and egg cells and IVF embryos up to the irreversible stages of the disease,” Professor Church said.

David Adams, a DNA scientist at the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute in Cambridge, said that the technique has the potential to transform the way scientists are able to manipulate the genes of all living organisms, especially patients with inherited diseases, cancer or lifelong HIV infection.

“This is the first time we’ve been able to edit the genome efficiently and precisely and at a scale that means individual patient mutations can be corrected,” Dr Adams said.

“There have been other technologies for editing the genome but they all leave a ‘scar’ behind or foreign DNA in the genome. This leaves no scars behind and you can change the individual nucleotides of DNA – the ‘letters’ of the genetic textbook – without any other unwanted changes,” he said.

Timeline: Landmarks in DNA science

Restriction enzymes: allowed scientists to cut the DNA molecule at or near a recognised genetic sequence. The enzymes work well in microbes but are more difficult to target in the more complex genomes of plants and animals. Their discovery in the 1970s opened the way for the age of genetic engineering, from GM crops to GM animals, and led to the 1978 Nobel Prize for medicine.

Polymerase chain reaction (PCR): a technique developed in 1983 by Kary Mullis (below, credit: Getty) in California allowed scientists to amplify the smallest amounts of DNA – down to a single molecule – to virtually unlimited quantities. It quickly became a standard technique, especially in forensic science, where it is used routinely in analysing the smallest tissue samples left at crime scenes. Many historical crimes have since been solved with the help of the PCR test. Mullis won the Nobel Prize for chemistry in 1993.

RNA interference: scientists working on the changing colour of petunia plants first noticed this phenomenon, which was later shown to involve RNA, a molecular cousin to DNA. In 1998, Craig Mello and Andrew Fire in the US demonstrated the phenomenon on nematode worms, showing that small strands of RNA could be used to turn down the activity of genes, rather like a dimmer switch. They shared the 2006 Nobel Prize for physiology or medicine for the discovery.

Zinc fingers: complex proteins called zinc fingers, first used on mice in 1994, can cut DNA at selected sites in the genome, with the help of enzymes. Another DNA-cutting technique called Talens can do something similar. But both are cumbersome to use and difficult to operate in practice – unlike the Crispr technique.

VIEW VIDEO

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/science/indyplus-video-crispr-technique-8925604.html

a video of how the Crispr system derived from bacteria works on human cells to correct genetic defects

SOURCE

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/science/exclusive-jawdropping-breakthrough-hailed-as-landmark-in-fight-against-hereditary-diseases-as-crispr-technique-heralds-genetic-revolution-8925295.html?goback=%2Egde_2106240_member_5804987154979381248#%21

Jennifer A. Doudna

Professor of Chemistry
Professor of Biochemistry & Molecular Biology

email: doudna@berkeley.edu
office: 708A Stanley Hall
phone: 510-643-0225
fax: 510-643-0008

lab: 731 Stanley Hall
lab phone: 510-643-0113
lab fax: 510-643-0080

Research Group URL
Recent Publications

Research Interests

Chemical Biology

Ribozymes and RNA Machines: RNA forms a variety of complex globular structures, some of which function like enzymes or form functional complexes with proteins. There are three major areas of focus in the lab: catalytic RNA, the function of RNA in the signal recognition particle and the mechanism of RNA-mediated internal initiation of protein synthesis. We are interested in understanding and comparing catalytic strategies used by RNA to those of protein enzymes, focusing on self-splicing introns and the self-cleaving RNA from hepatitis delta virus (HDV), a human pathogen. We are also investigating RNA-mediated initiation of protein synthesis, focusing on the internal ribosome entry site (IRES) RNA from Hepatitis C virus. Cryo-EM, x-ray crystallography and biochemical experiments are focused on understanding the structure and mechanism of the IRES and its amazing ability to hijack the mammalian ribosome and associated translation factors. A third area of focus in the lab is the signal recognition particle, which contains a highly conserved RNA required for targeting proteins for export out of cells. Each of these projects seeks to understand the molecular basis for RNA function, using a combination of structural, biophysical and biochemical approaches.

Biography

Medical School, 1989-1991; Post-doctoral fellow, University of Colorado, 1991-1994; Assistant/Associate professor, (1994-1998), Professor, (1999-2001), Yale University. Professor of Biochemistry & Molecular Biology, UC Berkeley, (2002-). Howard Hughes Medical Investigator 1997 to present. Packard Foundation Fellow Award, 1996; NSF Alan T. Waterman Award, 2000. Member, National Academy of Sciences, 2002. Member, American Academy of Arts and Sciences, 2003; American Association for the Advancement of Science Fellow Award, 2008; Member, Institute of Medicine of the National Academies, 2010.

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Diagnosing Diseases & Gene Therapy: Precision Genome Editing and Cost-effective microRNA Profiling

https://pharmaceuticalintelligence.com/2013/03/28/diagnosing-diseases-gene-therapy-precision-genome-editing-and-cost-effective-microrna-profiling/

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Reproductive Genetic Testing

Reporter and Curator: Sudipta Saha, Ph.D.

Reproductive genetics, a field of medical genetics integrated with reproductive medicine, assisted reproduction, and developmental genetics, involves a wide array of genetic tests that are conducted with the intent of informing individuals about the possible outcomes of current or future pregnancies. The tests themselves can include the analysis of chromosomes, DNA, RNA, genes, and/or gene products to determine whether an alteration is present that is causing or is likely to cause a specific disease or condition.

Types of Tests

In general, reproductive genetic testing involves the following categories of tests:

Carrier testing is performed to determine whether an individual carries one copy of an altered gene for a particular recessive disease. The term recessive refers to diseases that will occur only if both copies of a gene that an individual receives have a disease-associated mutation; thus, each child born to two carriers of a mutation in the same gene has a 25 percent risk of being affected with the disorder. Examples of carrier tests include those for

Couples are likely to have carrier tests if they are at higher risk of having a child with a specific disorder because of their racial or ethnic heritage or family history. Carrier testing is often done in the context of family planning and reproductive health.

Preimplantation diagnosis is used following in vitro fertilization to diagnose a genetic disease or condition in a preimplantation embryo. Preimplantation genetic diagnosis is essentially an alternative to prenatal diagnosis, as it allows prenatal testing to occur months earlier than conventional tests such as amniocentesis on week 18th of pregnancy, even before a pregnancy begins. Doctors can test a single cell from an eight-cell embryo that is just days old to determine, among other things, whether it is a male or female. This can provide crucial information for genetic diseases that afflict just one sex. Preimplantation genetic diagnosis has been applied to patients carrying chromosomal rearrangements, such as translocations, in which it has been proven to decrease the number of spontaneous abortions and prevent the birth of children affected with chromosome imbalances. Preimplantation genetic diagnosis techniques have also been applied to

  • increase implantation rates,
  • reduce the incidence of spontaneous abortion, and
  • prevent trisomic offspring in women of advanced maternal age undergoing fertility treatment.

A third group of patients receiving preimplantation genetic diagnosis are those at risk of transmitting a single gene disorder to their offspring. The number of monogenic disorders that have been diagnosed in preimplantation embryos has increased each year. So far, at least 700 healthy babies have been born worldwide after undergoing the procedure, and the number is growing rapidly.

Prenatal diagnosis is used to diagnose a genetic disease or condition in a developing fetus.

The techniques currently in use or under investigation for prenatal diagnosis include

  • (1) fetal tissue sampling through amniocentesis, chorionic villi sampling (CVS), percutaneous umbilical blood sampling, percutaneous skin biopsy, and other organ biopsies, including muscle and liver biopsy;
  • (2) fetal visualization through ultrasound, fetal echocardiography, embryoscopy, fetoscopy, magnetic resonance imaging, and radiography;
  • (3) screening for neural tube defects by measuring maternal serum alpha-fetoprotein (MSAFP);
  • (4) screening for fetal Down Syndrome by measuring MSAFP, unconjugated estriol, and human chorionic gonadotropin;
  • (5) separation of fetal cells from the mother’s blood; and
  • (6) preimplantation biopsy of blastocysts obtained by in vitro fertilization.

The more common techniques are amniocentesis, performed at the 14th to 20th week of gestation, and CVS, performed between the 9th and 13th week of gestation. If the fetus is found to be affected with a disorder, the couple can plan for the birth of an affected child or opt for elective abortion.

Newborn screening is performed in newborns on a public health basis by the states to detect certain genetic diseases for which early diagnosis and treatment are available. Newborn screening is one of the largest public health activities in the United States. It is aimed at the early identification of infants who are affected by certain genetic, metabolic or infectious conditions, reaching approximately 4 million children born each year. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately 3,000 babies each year in the United States are found to have severe disorders detected through screening. States test blood spots collected from newborns for 2 to over 30 metabolic and genetic diseases, such as

  • phenylketonuria,
  • hypothyroidism,
  • galactosemia,
  • sickle cell disease, and
  • medium chain acyl CoA dehyrogenase deficiency.

The goal of this screening is to identify affected newborns quickly in order to provide treatment that can prevent mental retardation, severe illness or death.

It is possible that somatic cell nuclear transfer (cloning) techniques could eventually be employed for the purposes of reproductive genetic testing. In addition, germline gene transfer is a technique that could be used to test and then alter the genetic makeup of the embryo. To date, however, these techniques have not been used in human studies.

Ethical Issues

Any procedure that provides information that could lead to a decision to terminate a pregnancy is not without controversy. Although prenatal diagnosis has been routine for nearly 20 years, some ethicists remain concerned that the ability to eliminate potential offspring with genetic defects contributes to making society overall less tolerant of disability. Others have argued that prenatal diagnosis is sometimes driven by economic concerns because as a society we have chosen not to provide affordable and accessible health care to everyone. Thus, prenatal diagnosis can save money by preventing the birth of defective and costly children. For reproductive genetic procedures that involve greater risk to the fetus, e.g., preimplantation diagnosis, concerns remain about whether the diseases being averted warrant the risks involved in the procedures themselves. These concerns are likely to escalate should

  • cloning or
  • germline gene transfer

be undertaken as a way to genetically test and select healthy offspring.

SOURCE:

http://www.genome.gov/10004766

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Reporter and Curator: Dr. Sudipta Saha, Ph.D.

Congenital hyperinsulinism is a medical term referring to a variety of congenital disorders in which hypoglycemia is caused by excessive insulin secretion. Congenital forms of hyperinsulinemic hypoglycemia can be transient or persistent, mild or severe. These conditions are present at birth and most become apparent in early infancy. The severe forms can cause obvious problems in the first hour of life, but milder forms may not be detected until adult years. Mild cases can be treated by frequent feedings, more severe cases can be controlled by medications that reduce insulin secretion or effects, and a minority of the most severe cases require surgical removal of part or most of the pancreas to protect the brain from damage due to recurrent hypoglycemia.

Types of congenital hyperinsulinism:

1. Transient neonatal hyperinsulinism

2. Focal hyperinsulinism

  • Paternal SUR1 mutation with clonal loss of heterozygosity of 11p15
  • Paternal Kir6.2 mutation with clonal loss of heterozygosity of 11p15

3. Diffuse hyperinsulinism

a. Autosomal recessive forms

  • i. SUR1 mutations
  • ii. Kir6.2 mutations
  • iii. Congenital disorders of glycosylation

b. Autosomal dominant forms

4. Beckwith-Wiedemann syndrome (thought to be due to hyperinsulinism but pathophysiology still uncertain: 11p15 mutation or IGF2 excess)

Congenital hyperinsulinism (CHI or HI) is a condition leading to recurrent hypoglycemia due to an inappropriate insulin secretion by the pancreatic islet beta cells. HI has two main characteristics:

  • a high glucose requirement to correct hypoglycemia and
  • a responsiveness of hypoglycemia to exogenous glucagon.

HI is usually isolated but may be rarely part of a genetic syndrome (e.g. Beckwith-Wiedemann syndrome, Sotos syndrome etc.). The severity of HI is evaluated by the glucose administration rate required to maintain normal glycemia and the responsiveness to medical treatment. Neonatal onset HI is usually severe while late onset and syndromic HI are generally responsive to a medical treatment. Glycemia must be maintained within normal ranges to avoid brain damages, initially, with glucose administration and glucagon infusion then, once the diagnosis is set, with specific HI treatment. Oral diazoxide is a first line treatment.

In case of unresponsiveness to this treatment, somatostatin analogues and calcium antagonists may be added, and further investigations are required for the putative histological diagnosis:

  • pancreatic (18)F-fluoro-L-DOPA PET-CT and
  • molecular analysis.

Indeed, focal forms consist of a focal adenomatous hyperplasia of islet cells, and will be cured after a partial pancreatectomy.

Diffuse HI involves all the pancreatic beta cells of the whole pancreas. Diffuse HI resistant to medical treatment (octreotide, diazoxide, calcium antagonists and continuous feeding) may require subtotal pancreatectomy which post-operative outcome is unpredictable.

The genetics of focal islet-cells hyperplasia associates

  • a paternally inherited mutation of the ABCC8 or
  • the KCNJ11 genes, with
  • a loss of the maternal allele specifically in the hyperplasic islet cells.

The genetics of diffuse isolated HI is heterogeneous and may be

  • recessively inherited (ABCC8 and KCNJ11) or
  • dominantly inherited (ABCC8, KCNJ11, GCK, GLUD1, SLC16A1, HNF4A and HADH).

Syndromic HI are always diffuse form and the genetics depend on the syndrome. Except for HI due to

  • potassium channel defect (ABCC8 and KCNJ11),

most of these HI are sensitive to diazoxide.

The main points sum up the management of HI:

  • i) prevention of brain damages by normalizing glycemia and
  • ii) screening for focal HI as they may be definitively cured after a limited pancreatectomy.

Source & References:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Congenital_hyperinsulinism

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20550977

 

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Reporter and Curator: Dr. Sudipta Saha, Ph.D.

A number of novel genes have been identified in association with a variety of endocrine phenotypes over the last few years. However, although mutations in a number of genes have been described in association with disorders such as

  • hypogonadotropic hypogonadism,
  • congenital hypopituitarism,
  • disorders of sex development, and
  • congenital hyperinsulinism,

these account for a minority of patients with these conditions, suggesting that many more genes remain to be identified.

How will these novel genes be identified? Monogenic disorders can arise as a result of genomic microdeletions or microduplications, or due to single point mutations that lead to a functional change in the relevant protein. Such disorders may also result from altered expression of a gene, and hence altered dosage of the protein. Candidate genes may be identified by utilizing naturally occurring or transgenic mouse models, and this approach has been particularly informative in the elucidation of the genetic basis of a number of disorders.

Other approaches include the identification of chromosomal rearrangements using conventional karyotyping techniques, as well as novel assays such as array comparative genomic hybridization (CGH) and single nucleotide polymorphism oligonucleotide arrays (SNP arrays). These molecular methods usually result in the identification of gross abnormalities as well as submicroscopic deletions and duplications, and eventually to the discovery of single gene defects that are associated with a particular phenotype.

However, there is no doubt that the major advances in novel gene identification will be made as a result of the sequencing of the genome of affected individuals and comparison with control data that are already available. Chip techniques allow hybridization of DNA or RNA to hundreds of thousands of probes simultaneously. Microarrays are being used for mutational analysis of human disease genes.

Complete sequencing of genomes or sequencing of exons that encode proteins (exome sequencing) is now possible, and will lead to the elucidation of the etiology of a number of human diseases in the next few years. High-throughput, high-density sequencing using microarray technology potentially offers the option of obtaining rapid, accurate, and relatively inexpensive sequence of large portions of the genome. One such technique is oligo-hybridization sequencing, which relies on the differential hybridization of target DNA to an array of oligonucleotide probes. This technique is ideally suited to the analysis of DNA from patients with defined disorders, such as disorders of sex development and retinal disease, but suffers from a relatively high false positive rate and failure to detect insertions and deletions.

It is often difficult to perform studies in humans, and so the generation of animal models may be valuable in understanding the etiology and pathogenesis of disease. A number of naturally occurring mouse models have led to the identification of corresponding candidate genes in humans, with mutations subsequently detected in human patients. More frequently, genes of interest are often deleted and lead to the generation of disease models.

In general, mouse models correlate well with human disease; however species-specific defects need to be taken into account. Additionally, the transgenic models could be used to manipulate a condition, with the potential for new therapies. The advent of conditional transgenesis has led to an exponential increase in our understanding of how the mutation of a single gene impacts on a single organ. Using technology such as inducible gene expression systems, the effect of switching on or switching off a gene at a particular stage in development can be determined.

Advances in genomics will also have a major impact on therapeutics. Micro RNAs (miRNA) are small non-coding RNAs that regulate gene expression by targeting mRNAs of protein coding genes or non-coding RNA transcripts. Micro RNAs also have an important role in developmental and physiological processes and can act as tumor suppressors or oncogenes in the ontogenesis of cancers. The use of small interfering RNA (siRNA) offers promise of novel therapies in a range of conditions, such as cystic fibrosis and Type II autosomal dominant IGHD. Elucidation of the genetic basis of disease also allows more direct targeting of therapy. For instance, children with permanent neonatal-onset diabetes mellitus (PNDM) due to mutations in SUR1 or KIR6.2 were previously treated with insulin but have now been shown to respond well to sulfonylureas, thereby allowing the cessation of insulin therapy.

Finally, we are now entering the era of pharmacogenetics when the response of an individual to various therapeutic agents may be determined by their genotype. For example, a polymorphism in the GH receptor that results in deletion of exon 3 may be associated with an improved response to GH. Thus the elucidation of the genetic basis of many disorders will aid their management, and permit the tailoring of therapy in individual patients.

Source References:

http://www.frontiersin.org/Genomic_Endocrinology/10.3389/fendo.2011.00011/full

 

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Reporter: Ritu Saxena, Ph.D.

Singapore, May 14, 2012 (ACN Newswire via COMTEX) — Scientists at A*STAR’s Institute of Medical Biology (IMB), in collaboration with doctors and scientists in Jordan, Turkey, Switzerland and USA, have identified the genetic cause of a birth defect known as Hamamy syndrome[1]. Their groundbreaking findings were published on May 13th in the prestigious journal Nature Genetics. The work lends new insights into common ailments such as heart disease, osteoporosis, blood disorders and possibly sterility.

Hamamy syndrome is a rare genetic disorder which is marked by abnormal facial features and defects in the heart, bone, blood and reproductive cells. Its exact cause was unknown until now. The international team, led by scientists at IMB, have pinpointed the genetic mistake to be a mutation in a single gene called IRX5.

This is the first time that a mutation in IRX5 (and the family of IRX genes) has ever been discovered in man. IRX5 is part of a family of transcription factors that is highly conserved in all animals, meaning that this gene is present not only in humans but also in mice, fish, frogs, flies and even worms. Using a frog model, the scientists demonstrated that Irx5 orchestrates cell movements in the developing foetus which underlie head and gonad formation.

Carine Bonnard, a final-year PhD student at IMB and the first author of the paper, said, “Because Hamamy syndrome causes a wide range of symptoms, not just in newborn babies but also in the adult, this implies that IRX5 is critical for development in the womb as well as for the function of many organs in our adult body. For example, patients with this disease cannot evacuate tears from their eyes, and they will also go on to experience repetitive bone fractures (Annex A) or progressive myopia as they age. This discovery of the causative gene is a significant finding that will catalyze research efforts into the role of the Irx gene family and greatly increase our understanding of human health, such as bone homeostasis, or gamete formation for instance.”

“We believe that this discovery could open up new therapeutic solutions to common diseases like osteoporosis, heart disease, anaemia which affect millions of people worldwide,” said Dr Bruno Reversade, Senior Principle Investigator at IMB. “The findings also provide a framework for understanding fascinating evolutionary questions, such as why humans of different ethnicities have distinct facial features and how these are embedded in our genome. IRX genes have been repeatedly co-opted during evolution, and small variation in their activity could underlie fine alterations in the way we look, or perhaps even drastic ones such as the traits seen in an elephant, whale, turtle or frog body pattern.”

Only a handful of people in the world have been identified with Hamamy Syndrome making it a very rare genetic disorder. Rare genetic diseases, usually caused by mutations in a single gene, provide a unique opportunity to better understand more common disease processes. These “natural” experiments are similar to carefully controlled knockout animal experiments in which the function of single genes are analyzed and often give major insights into general health issues.[2]

Prof Birgitte Lane, Executive Director of IMB, said, “Understanding how various pathways in the human body function is the foundation for developing new therapeutic targets. This is an important piece of research that I believe will be of great interest to many scientists and clinicians around the world because of the clinical and genetic insights it brings to a large range of diseases.”

Notes for editor:

The research findings described in this news release can be found on Nature Genetics’s website under the title “Mutations in IRX5 impair craniofacial development and germ cell migration via SDF1” by Carine Bonnard[1], Anna C Strobl[2], Mohammad Shboul1, Hane Lee[3], Barry Merriman[3], Stanley F Nelson[3], Osama H Ababneh[4], Elif Uz[5],[6], Tulay Guran[7], Hulya Kayserili[8], Hanan Hamamy[9],[10] & Bruno Reversade[1],[11].

[1] Institute of Medical Biology, Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR), Singapore, Singapore

[2] Division of Systems Biology, Medical Research Council National Institute for Medical Research, London, UK

[3] Department of Human Genetics, David Geffen School of Medicine, University of California, Los Angeles, California, USA

[4] Department of Opthalmology, Faculty of Medicine, University of Jordan, Amman, Jordan

[5] Department of Biology, Faculty of Arts and Sciences, Duzce University, Duzce, Turkey

[6] Gene Mapping Laboratory, Department of Medical Genetics, Hacettepe University Medical Faculty, Ankara, Turkey

[7] Pediatric Endocrinology and Diabetes, Marmara University Hospital, Istanbul, Turkey

[8] Medical Genetics Department, Istanbul Medical Faculty, Istanbul University, Istanbul, Turkey

[9] Department of Genetic Medicine and Development, Geneva University Hospital, Geneva, Switzerland

[11] Department of Pediatrics, National University of Singapore, Singapore

Correspondence should be addressed to B.R. (Bruno@reversade.com)

The article can be accessed fromhttp://www.nature.com/ng/journal/vaop/ncurrent/full/ng.2259.html .

About the Institute of Medical Biology (IMB)

IMB is one of the Biomedical Sciences Institutes of the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR). It was formed in 2007, the 7th and youngest of the BMRC Research Institutes, with a mission to study mechanisms of human disease in order to discover new and effective therapeutic strategies for improved quality of life. From 2011, IMB also hosts the inter-research institute Skin Biology Cluster platform.

IMB has 20 research teams of international excellence in stem cells, genetic diseases, cancer and skin and epithelial biology, and works closely with clinical collaborators to target the challenging interface between basic science and clinical medicine. Its growing portfolio of strategic research topics is targeted at translational research on the mechanisms of human diseases, with a cell-to-tissue emphasis that can help identify new therapeutic strategies for disease amelioration, cure and eradication. For more information about IMB, please visit www.imb.a-star.edu.sg .

About the Reversade Laboratory

Dr. Reversade, a human geneticist and embryologist holds a Senior Principal Investigator position at IMB and an adjunct faculty position at the Department of Paediatrics in the National University of Singapore. He is a Fellow of the Branco Weiss Foundation based at ETH in Switzerland and also the first recipient of an A*STAR Investigatorship, a programme which provides competitive and prestigious fellowships to support the next generation of international scientific leaders, offering funding and access to state-of-the-art scientific equipment and facilities at A*STAR. For more information about Dr. Reversade’s laboratory, please visit www.reversade.com .

About A*STAR

The Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR) is the lead agency for fostering world-class scientific research and talent for a vibrant knowledge-based and innovation-driven Singapore. A*STAR oversees 14 biomedical sciences and physical sciences and engineering research institutes, and six consortia & centres, located in Biopolis and Fusionopolis as well as their immediate vicinity. A*STAR supports Singapore’s key economic clusters by providing intellectual, human and industrial capital to its partners in industry. It also supports extramural research in the universities, and with other local and international partners. For more information about A*STAR, please visit www.a-star.edu.sg .

Source: http://www.marketwatch.com/story/scientists-make-groundbreaking-discovery-of-mutation-causing-genetic-disorder-in-humans-2012-05-14?pagenumber=1

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