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 Individual Receptors Caught at Work
19.10.2017 | Julius-Maximilians-Universität Würzburg

nachricht Rapid environmental change makes species more vulnerable to extinction
19.10.2017 | Universität Zürich

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Neutron star merger directly observed for the first time

University of Maryland researchers contribute to historic detection of gravitational waves and light created by event

On August 17, 2017, at 12:41:04 UTC, scientists made the first direct observation of a merger between two neutron stars--the dense, collapsed cores that remain...

Im Focus: Breaking: the first light from two neutron stars merging

Seven new papers describe the first-ever detection of light from a gravitational wave source. The event, caused by two neutron stars colliding and merging together, was dubbed GW170817 because it sent ripples through space-time that reached Earth on 2017 August 17. Around the world, hundreds of excited astronomers mobilized quickly and were able to observe the event using numerous telescopes, providing a wealth of new data.

Previous detections of gravitational waves have all involved the merger of two black holes, a feat that won the 2017 Nobel Prize in Physics earlier this month....

Im Focus: Smart sensors for efficient processes

Material defects in end products can quickly result in failures in many areas of industry, and have a massive impact on the safe use of their products. This is why, in the field of quality assurance, intelligent, nondestructive sensor systems play a key role. They allow testing components and parts in a rapid and cost-efficient manner without destroying the actual product or changing its surface. Experts from the Fraunhofer IZFP in Saarbrücken will be presenting two exhibits at the Blechexpo in Stuttgart from 7–10 November 2017 that allow fast, reliable, and automated characterization of materials and detection of defects (Hall 5, Booth 5306).

When quality testing uses time-consuming destructive test methods, it can result in enormous costs due to damaging or destroying the products. And given that...

Im Focus: Cold molecules on collision course

Using a new cooling technique MPQ scientists succeed at observing collisions in a dense beam of cold and slow dipolar molecules.

How do chemical reactions proceed at extremely low temperatures? The answer requires the investigation of molecular samples that are cold, dense, and slow at...

Im Focus: Shrinking the proton again!

Scientists from the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics, using high precision laser spectroscopy of atomic hydrogen, confirm the surprisingly small value of the proton radius determined from muonic hydrogen.

It was one of the breakthroughs of the year 2010: Laser spectroscopy of muonic hydrogen resulted in a value for the proton charge radius that was significantly...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

ASEAN Member States discuss the future role of renewable energy

17.10.2017 | Event News

World Health Summit 2017: International experts set the course for the future of Global Health

10.10.2017 | Event News

Climate Engineering Conference 2017 Opens in Berlin

10.10.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Electrode materials from the microwave oven

19.10.2017 | Materials Sciences

New material for digital memories of the future

19.10.2017 | Materials Sciences

Physics boosts artificial intelligence methods

19.10.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>