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New insights into neural tube defects


Environmental and genetic factors lead to neural tube defects in 1 in every 1,000 births and cause 1 in 20 of every spontaneous abortion. One cause of these defects is the failure of cells within the neural tube to migrate to the middle of the developing neural tube.

A study in this week’s issue of Nature is the first to report on the molecular mechanism that directs cells to migrate to the correct local within the developing neural tube of vertebrates.

Marek Mlodzik, PhD, Professor, Molecular, Cell and Development Biology at Mount Sinai School of Medicine has previously reported that the asymmetrical distribution of specific proteins within neural tissues in fruit flies controls the orientation and migration of cells.

Working with colleagues Brian Ciruna, Diana Lee, and Alexander Schier, who were at New York University when the research was conducted, and Andreas Jenny of Mount Sinai, Dr. Mlodzik’s and Dr. Schier’s laboratories have now found that a similar mechanism is at work in vertebrates.

During cell division the polarity of a cell is lost. Therefore, the newly formed daughter cells initially lack the information to direct them to migrate to the midline where they are needed for proper neural tube development. The report in Nature is the first to demonstrate that the polarity is restored to the daughter cells after rather than during cell division and to provide the specific molecules involved in restoring polarity.

After cell division, proteins that direct the polarity of the cell distribute asymmetrically. This distribution restores polarity in the daughter cell, directing them to migrate to the midline of the neural tube.

Mount Sinai Press Office | EurekAlert!
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