Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Cause of genetic disorder found in 'dark matter' of DNA

11.11.2013
For the first time, scientists have used new technology which analyses the whole genome to find the cause of a genetic disease in what was previously referred to as 'junk DNA'

For the first time, scientists have used new technology which analyses the whole genome to find the cause of a genetic disease in what was previously referred to as "junk DNA".

Pancreatic agenesis results in babies being born without a pancreas, leaving them with a lifetime of diabetes and problems digesting food. In a breakthrough for genetic research, teams led by the University of Exeter Medical School and Imperial College London found that the condition is most commonly caused by mutations in a newly identified gene regulatory element in a remote part of the genome, which can now be explored thanks to advances in genetic sequencing.

In a study published today (November 10 2013) in Nature Genetics, the team discovered that the condition is caused by mutations in genomic "dark matter", the vast stretches of DNA that do not contain genes that accounts for 99 per cent of the human genome. Instead, it is responsible for making sure that genes are "switched on" at the right time and in the right part of the body. The effects of this region on human development is only beginning to be understood, thanks to technologies which allow scientists to analyse the whole genome – all 3 billion letters in our DNA codes.

The research was funded through the Wellcome Trust, the European Community's Seventh Framework Programme and the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Exeter Clinical Research Facility.

Dr Mike Weedon, lead researcher and Senior Lecturer at the University of Exeter Medical School, said: "This breakthrough delves into the 'dark matter' of the genome, which until recently, was very difficult to systematically study. Now, advances in DNA sequencing technology mean we have the tools to explore these non-protein coding regions far more thoroughly, and we are finding it has a significant impact on development and disease."

The pancreas plays an essential role in regulating levels of sugar (glucose) in the blood. It does this by the release of the hormone insulin, which is generated and released by cells known as pancreatic beta cells. It also produces enzymes to help digest and absorb food.

Pancreatic agenesis means babies have diabetes from birth and problems with digesting food which prevents weight gain. The disease is rare, but its study also helps scientists gain a better understanding of how the pancreas works, which helps shed light on research into diabetes.

Professor Andrew Hattersley, a Wellcome Trust Senior Investigator who led the Exeter team said: "This finding gives a deeper understanding to families affected by this disorder, and it also tells us more about how the pancreas develops. In the longer term, this insight could have implications for regenerative stem cell treatments for Type 1 Diabetes."

The team found six different mutations in a newly discovered PTF1A regulatory region in eleven people affected by pancreatic agenesis from across the world.

The collaboration also involved: the Institut d'Investigacions Biomèdiques August Pi I Sunyer, Spain; CIBER de Diabetes y Enfermedades Metabólicas, Spain; Universidad de Buenos Aires; Wellcome Trust–Medical Research Council Cambridge Stem Cell Institute; Seattle Children's Hospital Research Institute; King's College London; London Centre for Paediatric Endocrinology and Metabolism, in partnership with the Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children National Health Service Trust; University College London.

Louise Vennells | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.exeter.ac.uk

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Nerves control the body’s bacterial community
26.09.2017 | Christian-Albrechts-Universität zu Kiel

nachricht Ageless ears? Elderly barn owls do not become hard of hearing
26.09.2017 | Carl von Ossietzky-Universität Oldenburg

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: The fastest light-driven current source

Controlling electronic current is essential to modern electronics, as data and signals are transferred by streams of electrons which are controlled at high speed. Demands on transmission speeds are also increasing as technology develops. Scientists from the Chair of Laser Physics and the Chair of Applied Physics at Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg (FAU) have succeeded in switching on a current with a desired direction in graphene using a single laser pulse within a femtosecond ¬¬ – a femtosecond corresponds to the millionth part of a billionth of a second. This is more than a thousand times faster compared to the most efficient transistors today.

Graphene is up to the job

Im Focus: LaserTAB: More efficient and precise contacts thanks to human-robot collaboration

At the productronica trade fair in Munich this November, the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT will be presenting Laser-Based Tape-Automated Bonding, LaserTAB for short. The experts from Aachen will be demonstrating how new battery cells and power electronics can be micro-welded more efficiently and precisely than ever before thanks to new optics and robot support.

Fraunhofer ILT from Aachen relies on a clever combination of robotics and a laser scanner with new optics as well as process monitoring, which it has developed...

Im Focus: The pyrenoid is a carbon-fixing liquid droplet

Plants and algae use the enzyme Rubisco to fix carbon dioxide, removing it from the atmosphere and converting it into biomass. Algae have figured out a way to increase the efficiency of carbon fixation. They gather most of their Rubisco into a ball-shaped microcompartment called the pyrenoid, which they flood with a high local concentration of carbon dioxide. A team of scientists at Princeton University, the Carnegie Institution for Science, Stanford University and the Max Plank Institute of Biochemistry have unravelled the mysteries of how the pyrenoid is assembled. These insights can help to engineer crops that remove more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere while producing more food.

A warming planet

Im Focus: Highly precise wiring in the Cerebral Cortex

Our brains house extremely complex neuronal circuits, whose detailed structures are still largely unknown. This is especially true for the so-called cerebral cortex of mammals, where among other things vision, thoughts or spatial orientation are being computed. Here the rules by which nerve cells are connected to each other are only partly understood. A team of scientists around Moritz Helmstaedter at the Frankfiurt Max Planck Institute for Brain Research and Helene Schmidt (Humboldt University in Berlin) have now discovered a surprisingly precise nerve cell connectivity pattern in the part of the cerebral cortex that is responsible for orienting the individual animal or human in space.

The researchers report online in Nature (Schmidt et al., 2017. Axonal synapse sorting in medial entorhinal cortex, DOI: 10.1038/nature24005) that synapses in...

Im Focus: Tiny lasers from a gallery of whispers

New technique promises tunable laser devices

Whispering gallery mode (WGM) resonators are used to make tiny micro-lasers, sensors, switches, routers and other devices. These tiny structures rely on a...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

“Lasers in Composites Symposium” in Aachen – from Science to Application

19.09.2017 | Event News

I-ESA 2018 – Call for Papers

12.09.2017 | Event News

EMBO at Basel Life, a new conference on current and emerging life science research

06.09.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Nerves control the body’s bacterial community

26.09.2017 | Life Sciences

Four elements make 2-D optical platform

26.09.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Goodbye, login. Hello, heart scan

26.09.2017 | Information Technology

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>