Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Unmasking nutrition's role in genes and birth defects

10.08.2006
Expectant mothers may someday get a personalized menu of foods to eat during pregnancy to complement their genetic makeup as a result of new research at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. Researchers used transparent fish embryos to develop a way to discover how genes and diet interact to cause birth defects.

"By the time most women know they are pregnant, the development of the fetus' organs is essentially complete," said Bryce Mendelsohn, co-author and an M.D./Ph.D. student in the Medical Scientist Training Program at Washington University School of Medicine. "Since we currently do not understand the interaction between genetics and nutrition, the goal of this research was to understand how the lack of a specific nutrient, in this case copper, interacts with an embryo's genetics during early development."

Mendelsohn is doing the research in the laboratory of Jonathan D. Gitlin, M.D., the Helene B. Roberson Professor of Pediatrics at Washington University School of Medicine, director of genetics and genomic medicine at St. Louis Children's Hospital and scientific director of the Children's Discovery Institute.

Mendelsohn and collaborators Stephen L. Johnson, Ph.D., associate professor of genetics at the School of Medicine, and graduate student Chunyue Yin, working with Lila Solnica-Krezel, associate professor of biology at Vanderbilt University, studied the impact of copper metabolism on the development of zebrafish, a vertebrate that develops similarly to humans. Zebrafish have become staples of genetic research because the transparent embryos grow outside of the mother's body, which allows development to be easily observed. The study's results appear in the August issue of Cell Metabolism.

Using techniques designed to get to the core of how the body processes copper, the researchers identified a gene in zebrafish responsible for copper metabolism, called atp7a. They found that variants of the atp7a gene led to the abnormal metabolism of copper, which resulted in impaired development of the fish's notochord, similar to the spine in humans.

In humans, copper is found in all body tissues and is critical for maintaining stable iron levels, connective tissue formation, nerve cell function in the brain, hormone production and pigmentation. The trace metal is commonly found in shellfish, nuts, chocolate and liver.

"Whether a zebrafish embryo has enough copper to develop normally depends not only on the total amount of copper, but on how well this gene functions," Mendelsohn said.

Menkes disease is an inherited disorder of copper metabolism caused by a mutation in the human version of the ATP7A gene. Children who have Menkes disease have seizures, neuronal degeneration, abnormal bone development and kinky, colorless hair. The disease, although very rare, is untreatable and fatal.

The discovery of a vertebrate model to examine copper metabolism in early development will contribute to the understanding of the role of copper in structural birth defects such as scoliosis, an abnormal curvature of the spine. In addition, the availability of the zebrafish model of Menkes disease permits the development of novel therapeutic approaches in affected patients.

The researchers next plan to adapt these same methods to find other genes that affect the body's use of important nutrients during early development. This could provide insight into how poor nutrition and genetic variation act together to contribute to birth defects. "We already know that nutrition is a critical issue in birth defects and that folic acid is an essential supplement in some women for the prevention of spina bifida in the developing fetus," said Gitlin. "The ultimate goal of this research is to bring the power of genomic medicine to every woman. The knowledge of genetic variations serves as a unique, individual guide for providing the essential nutritional intake that will ensure a normal, healthy infant."

The research is also the first scientific discovery to emerge from the Children's Discovery Institute, a collaboration between St. Louis Children's Hospital and Washington University School of Medicine to fund unique research initiatives in child health.

Beth Miller | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.wustl.edu

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Single-stranded DNA and RNA origami go live
15.12.2017 | Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard

nachricht New antbird species discovered in Peru by LSU ornithologists
15.12.2017 | Louisiana State University

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: First-of-its-kind chemical oscillator offers new level of molecular control

DNA molecules that follow specific instructions could offer more precise molecular control of synthetic chemical systems, a discovery that opens the door for engineers to create molecular machines with new and complex behaviors.

Researchers have created chemical amplifiers and a chemical oscillator using a systematic method that has the potential to embed sophisticated circuit...

Im Focus: Long-lived storage of a photonic qubit for worldwide teleportation

MPQ scientists achieve long storage times for photonic quantum bits which break the lower bound for direct teleportation in a global quantum network.

Concerning the development of quantum memories for the realization of global quantum networks, scientists of the Quantum Dynamics Division led by Professor...

Im Focus: Electromagnetic water cloak eliminates drag and wake

Detailed calculations show water cloaks are feasible with today's technology

Researchers have developed a water cloaking concept based on electromagnetic forces that could eliminate an object's wake, greatly reducing its drag while...

Im Focus: Scientists channel graphene to understand filtration and ion transport into cells

Tiny pores at a cell's entryway act as miniature bouncers, letting in some electrically charged atoms--ions--but blocking others. Operating as exquisitely sensitive filters, these "ion channels" play a critical role in biological functions such as muscle contraction and the firing of brain cells.

To rapidly transport the right ions through the cell membrane, the tiny channels rely on a complex interplay between the ions and surrounding molecules,...

Im Focus: Towards data storage at the single molecule level

The miniaturization of the current technology of storage media is hindered by fundamental limits of quantum mechanics. A new approach consists in using so-called spin-crossover molecules as the smallest possible storage unit. Similar to normal hard drives, these special molecules can save information via their magnetic state. A research team from Kiel University has now managed to successfully place a new class of spin-crossover molecules onto a surface and to improve the molecule’s storage capacity. The storage density of conventional hard drives could therefore theoretically be increased by more than one hundred fold. The study has been published in the scientific journal Nano Letters.

Over the past few years, the building blocks of storage media have gotten ever smaller. But further miniaturization of the current technology is hindered by...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

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

AKL’18: The opportunities and challenges of digitalization in the laser industry

07.12.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Engineers program tiny robots to move, think like insects

15.12.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering

One in 5 materials chemistry papers may be wrong, study suggests

15.12.2017 | Materials Sciences

New antbird species discovered in Peru by LSU ornithologists

15.12.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>