Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Micro-molecule plays big role in birth defects

20.07.2005


UF Genetics Institute researcher finds way to explore role of microRNAs in specific tissue



University of Florida researchers have learned how to selectively shut down a flyweight-sized genetic molecule that packs a heavyweight punch, a discovery that may help doctors better understand cancer, birth defects and other health problems. The finding, which will be reported this week in the online Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, deals with tiny strands of genetic material called microRNAs.

Once thought to be little more than cellular debris, these short strands of RNA may perform a vital role in healthy development by strategically turning off gene activity.


By genetically modifying mice, scientists with the UF Genetics Institute were able to get the first-ever picture of how limbs would develop in a vertebrate without the help of microRNAs. When microRNAs were not available to turn off certain genes, the mice grew malformed, nonfunctional limbs.

The finding may provide insight into human birth defects, but scientists say its greater value will be as a new technique to study the function and malfunction of microRNAs, more than 200 types of which are thought to exist in the human body.

"We looked at limb development because it’s a great place to demonstrate the technique," said Brian Harfe, Ph.D., an assistant professor of molecular genetics and microbiology in the College of Medicine and lead author of the report. "We were able to show it’s feasible to eliminate the activity of microRNAs from a specific tissue while the rest of the tissue remains normal."

Had researchers inhibited microRNAs in every single cell, Harfe said the mouse embryos would survive little more than seven days after fertilization. "That isn’t enough time to study development," Harfe said. "Most structures, such as the heart, the gut and the lungs, haven’t even formed yet. Now we can bypass the problem of early mortality and study the structures as they develop. It’s a new tool for the genetic researcher’s toolbox."

No more than five years ago, microRNAs were considered to be little more than light seasoning in the genetic soup, distant and unnecessary cousins to the main ingredients, DNA, which contains all the genetic instructions for the human body, and RNA, which translates DNA’s message into proteins - the building blocks of life.

Scientists now think the pint-sized pieces of RNA may control as much as one-third of human gene expression by seeking out and binding to messenger RNA, thereby adjusting the protein-manufacturing process.

But for microRNAs to do their jobs, scientists believe an enzyme called Dicer must be present. Harfe, who worked in collaboration with researchers at the University of California at San Francisco and the Harvard Medical School, genetically modified mice so that scientists could eliminate Dicer in specific tissues at any stage in the developmental process, thus opening a window into the role of microRNAs in limb development.

In cases where Dicer is not present in developing limb tissue, Harfe showed that microRNAs were not processed and limbs were visibly smaller. "Many of the birth defects we see in people are mimicked by the defects we’ve seen in this mouse model," said Xin Sun, Ph.D., an assistant professor of genetics at the University of Wisconsin who is familiar with the research but who did not participate in it. "It indicates mutations in microRNAs might be responsible for birth defects, and this has not been discovered before. Using this same approach, we can look at other embryonic organs and ask what microRNAs do as a group."

Other research indicates microRNAs may play a role in diseases ranging from cancer to AIDS. "There is indirect evidence that if you remove two microRNAs from the human genome, leukemia develops," Harfe said. "We envision our mouse model may be a tool to directly test how microRNAs are involved in human cancers."

John Pastor | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.vpha.health.ufl.edu

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Polymers Based on Boron?
18.01.2018 | Julius-Maximilians-Universität Würzburg

nachricht Bioengineered soft microfibers improve T-cell production
18.01.2018 | Columbia University School of Engineering and Applied Science

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Scientists decipher key principle behind reaction of metalloenzymes

So-called pre-distorted states accelerate photochemical reactions too

What enables electrons to be transferred swiftly, for example during photosynthesis? An interdisciplinary team of researchers has worked out the details of how...

Im Focus: The first precise measurement of a single molecule's effective charge

For the first time, scientists have precisely measured the effective electrical charge of a single molecule in solution. This fundamental insight of an SNSF Professor could also pave the way for future medical diagnostics.

Electrical charge is one of the key properties that allows molecules to interact. Life itself depends on this phenomenon: many biological processes involve...

Im Focus: Paradigm shift in Paris: Encouraging an holistic view of laser machining

At the JEC World Composite Show in Paris in March 2018, the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT will be focusing on the latest trends and innovations in laser machining of composites. Among other things, researchers at the booth shared with the Aachen Center for Integrative Lightweight Production (AZL) will demonstrate how lasers can be used for joining, structuring, cutting and drilling composite materials.

No other industry has attracted as much public attention to composite materials as the automotive industry, which along with the aerospace industry is a driver...

Im Focus: Room-temperature multiferroic thin films and their properties

Scientists at Tokyo Institute of Technology (Tokyo Tech) and Tohoku University have developed high-quality GFO epitaxial films and systematically investigated their ferroelectric and ferromagnetic properties. They also demonstrated the room-temperature magnetocapacitance effects of these GFO thin films.

Multiferroic materials show magnetically driven ferroelectricity. They are attracting increasing attention because of their fascinating properties such as...

Im Focus: A thermometer for the oceans

Measurement of noble gases in Antarctic ice cores

The oceans are the largest global heat reservoir. As a result of man-made global warming, the temperature in the global climate system increases; around 90% of...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

10th International Symposium: “Advanced Battery Power – Kraftwerk Batterie” Münster, 10-11 April 2018

08.01.2018 | Event News

See, understand and experience the work of the future

11.12.2017 | Event News

Innovative strategies to tackle parasitic worms

08.12.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Polymers Based on Boron?

18.01.2018 | Life Sciences

Bioengineered soft microfibers improve T-cell production

18.01.2018 | Life Sciences

World’s oldest known oxygen oasis discovered

18.01.2018 | Earth Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>