SAN FRANCISCO, CAJanuary 22, 2012Scientists at the Gladstone Institutes have identified a finely tuned mechanism by which fetal heart muscle develops into a healthy and fully formed beating heartoffering new insight into the genetic causes of congenital heart disease and opening the door to one day developing therapies to fight this chronic and potentially fatal disorder.
In a paper being published online today in Nature Genetics, researchers in the laboratory of Gladstone Senior Investigator Benoit Bruneau, PhD, describe the roles that two genesEzh2 and Six1play in embryonic heart development, while also uncovering how the genetic basis of embryonic heart formation can have profound health consequences later in life.
This research highlights the emerging importance of a biological process called "epigenetics," in which a genetic change that is inherited by a cell or organism early during development has long-term consequences. Epigenetics is of particular interest in heart development, as the incorrect activation of genes in fetal development can lead to congenital heart disease into adulthood.
"Approximately 1.3 million children and adults in the United States live with congenital heart diseaserequiring daily medications, surgeries and for some, heart transplants," said Dr. Bruneau, who is also a professor of Pediatrics at the University of California, San Francisco, with which Gladstone is affiliated. "An understanding of the epigenetic regulation of heart development could someday bring us closer to improving the lives of these individuals."
At specific times during healthy heart development, Ezh2 acts as a "master regulator," shutting off genes that are no longer needed or that need to be kept off. In the past, the focus has been on which genes get switched on during normal heart development. But in this paper, Dr. Bruneau, along with Gladstone Postdoctoral Scholar Paul Delgado-Olguin, PhD, investigated which
|Contact: Anne Holden|