A gene that can cause congenital heart defects has been identified by a team of scientists, including a group from Princeton University. The discovery could lead to new treatments for those affected by the conditions brought on by the birth defect.
Princeton researchers focused on identifying and studying the gene in zebrafish embryos, and the team's work expanded to include collaborations with other groups studying the genetics of mice and people.
"This work really showcases the use of collaborative science and multiple model systems to better understand human disease," said Rebecca Burdine, an assistant professor of molecular biology at Princeton who led her team.
The newly discovered gene, called CCDC40 (for "coiled coil domain containing protein 40"), controls right-to-left patterning as tissues develop, a critical factor in the configuration and effectiveness of organs. Scientists found the gene by zeroing in on zebrafish and mice in which the placement, and sometimes the internal structure, of organs is disrupted or reversed. While these so-called "left-right patterning" defects occur very rarely in zebrafish and mice, they occur at high frequency in the animals with mutated CCDC40 genes. Their study was published online in Nature Genetics on Dec. 5. A separate paper by another group identifying a sister gene, CCDC39, based on studies of genes in sheepdogs, appears in the same edition of the science journal.
"We used the strengths of different model organisms to gain an understanding of how a novel protein, produced by this new gene, functions," said Irene Zohn, who led a research group studying mice genetics at the Children's National Medical Center in Washington, D.C., and is one of the first authors on the CCDC40 study with Burdine's group. A third group, led by physician Heymut Omran and based at University Hospital in Freiburg, Germany, rounded out the team, with other individual participants located els
|Contact: Kitta MacPherson|