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Researchers find new insights into inherited retinal disease
Date:1/17/2010

An international team of scientists, led by researchers at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine have discovered new links between a common form of inherited blindness affecting children and a gene known as Abelson helper integration site-1 (AHI1). Their findings, which may lead to new therapies and improved diagnostics for retinal disease, will appear online in advance of publication in the journal Nature Genetics on January 17.

A newly recognized class of disease known as "ciliopathies" has caught the attention of the medical community. Ciliopathies are caused by problems in the structure and/or function of cilia, which are small antenna-like structures protruding from the surface of most cells.

The function of cilia has not been understood, but patients with ciliopathies can suffer from a spectrum of problems including retinal blindness, obesity, renal failure, liver fibrosis and mental impairment. Major breakthroughs in the past few years have linked many forms of these diseases with defects in the structure or signaling capacity of the cilia in cells as diverse as retinal, fat, kidney, liver and nerve cells. Because cilia are so widely present on cells throughout the body, many seemingly unrelated diseases are now known to be related through functions of cilia.

"We are just beginning to uncover the genetic causes for these disorders, but more research is needed to understand why patients with these particular genetic alterations have such variable diseases," said Joseph G. Gleeson, MD, professor of neurosciences and pediatrics at UC San Diego and Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator, who supervised the work.

The scientists, led by Gleeson and UCSD graduate student Carrie M. Louie, discovered that loss of the AHI1 gene, which had already been found to cause Joubert Syndrome, a ciliopathy of mental retardation and impaired balance, also caused severe early onset retinal degenerati
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Contact: Debra Kain
ddkain@ucsd.edu
619-543-6163
University of California - San Diego
Source:Eurekalert

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