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Same gene that stunts infants' growth also makes them grow too big
Date:5/27/2012

The Caterpillar got down off the mushroom and crawled away in the grass, remarking as it went, 'One side will make you grow taller, and the other side will make you grow shorter.'
-Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, by Lewis Carroll

UCLA geneticists have identified the mutation responsible for IMAGe syndrome, a rare disorder that stunts infants' growth. The twist? The mutation occurs on the same gene that causes Beckwith-Wiedemann syndrome, which makes cells grow too fast, leading to very large children.

Published in the May 27 edition of Nature Genetics, the UCLA findings could lead to new ways of blocking the rapid cell division that allows tumors to grow unchecked. The discovery also offers a new tool for diagnosing children with IMAGe syndrome, which until now has been difficult to accurately identify.

The discovery holds special significance for principal investigator Dr. Eric Vilain, a professor of human genetics, pediatrics and urology at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA.

Nearly 20 years ago, as a medical resident in his native France, Vilain cared for two boys, ages 3 and 6, who were dramatically short for their ages. Though unrelated, both children shared a mysterious malady marked by minimal fetal development, stunted bone growth, sluggish adrenal glands, and undersized organs and genitals.

"I never found a reason to explain these patients' unusual set of symptoms," explained Vilain, who is also director of the UCLA Institute for Society and Genetics. "I've been searching for the cause of their disease since 1993."

When Vilain joined UCLA as a genetics fellow, the two cases continued to intrigue him. His mentor, then UCLA geneticist Dr. Edward McCabe, recalled a similar case from his previous post at Baylor College of Medicine. The two of them obtained blood samples from the three cases and analyzed the patients' DNA for mutations in suspect genes, but uncovered noth
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Contact: Elaine Schmidt
eschmidt@mednet.ucla.edu
310-794-2272
University of California - Los Angeles Health Sciences
Source:Eurekalert

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