In fact, the researchers found that IMAGe syndrome was only associated with changes in the maternal CDKN1C gene. If only the copy of the gene inherited from the father carried the mutation, the child was unaffected. This process of 'switching on' genes differently depending on whether they are inherited from the mother or the father is known as 'imprinting'. Some scientists believe that imprinted genes have evolved to play an important role in how the foetus develops in the womb; a smaller foetus carries an advantage to the mother as it increases her chances of survival during childbirth, whilst the father's genes may work to increase the birth size and hence chances of survival of the offspring.
Dr John Achermann, a Wellcome Trust Senior Research Fellow at the UCL Institute of Child Health, UCL, says: "Our surprising finding shows that different changes in the same gene can lead to very different effects. The results give us clues not only in relation to growth during human development, but also to how cells grow and divide and lead to tumours."
|Contact: Craig Brierley|