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Scientists Identify Critical Gene Factor in Heart Development

on human congenital heart defect.

They also found that miR-1-2 influences electrical conduction of the heart, which is what regulates the heart beat. Defects in the heart rhythm frequently cause sudden death in humans and are the reason for pacemakers and defibrillators.

Loss of miR-1-2 also caused a breakdown of the control of cell division in the heart cells. This is potentially a very important finding. Adult heart cells do not divide. When a heart attack occurs, heart cells die and cannot be replaced. Understanding how cell division works in the heart may lead to ways to turn it back on or to use stem cells to fix the damaged heart.

Finally, the team was able to see all of the genes that a specific microRNA affects. Each microRNA is known to control more than one gene. Dr. Srivastava's team used genomic studies to examine all of the genes that were turned on or off by the loss of miR-1-2. This information will help to determine the global picture of microRNA control.

"Our results show that even small changes in microRNA dosage can have large effects," said Yong Zhao, MD, PhD, postdoctoral fellow and lead author on the paper. "Although any therapies are a long way off, understanding the effects of miR-1-2 is very exciting," added Joshua Ransom, a graduate student who contributed equally to this work."

Source-Eurekalert
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