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 Bare bones: Making bones transparent
27.04.2017 | California Institute of Technology

nachricht Link Discovered between Immune System, Brain Structure and Memory
26.04.2017 | Universität Basel

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Making lightweight construction suitable for series production

More and more automobile companies are focusing on body parts made of carbon fiber reinforced plastics (CFRP). However, manufacturing and repair costs must be further reduced in order to make CFRP more economical in use. Together with the Volkswagen AG and five other partners in the project HolQueSt 3D, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) has developed laser processes for the automatic trimming, drilling and repair of three-dimensional components.

Automated manufacturing processes are the basis for ultimately establishing the series production of CFRP components. In the project HolQueSt 3D, the LZH has...

Im Focus: Wonder material? Novel nanotube structure strengthens thin films for flexible electronics

Reflecting the structure of composites found in nature and the ancient world, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have synthesized thin carbon nanotube (CNT) textiles that exhibit both high electrical conductivity and a level of toughness that is about fifty times higher than copper films, currently used in electronics.

"The structural robustness of thin metal films has significant importance for the reliable operation of smart skin and flexible electronics including...

Im Focus: Deep inside Galaxy M87

The nearby, giant radio galaxy M87 hosts a supermassive black hole (BH) and is well-known for its bright jet dominating the spectrum over ten orders of magnitude in frequency. Due to its proximity, jet prominence, and the large black hole mass, M87 is the best laboratory for investigating the formation, acceleration, and collimation of relativistic jets. A research team led by Silke Britzen from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany, has found strong indication for turbulent processes connecting the accretion disk and the jet of that galaxy providing insights into the longstanding problem of the origin of astrophysical jets.

Supermassive black holes form some of the most enigmatic phenomena in astrophysics. Their enormous energy output is supposed to be generated by the...

Im Focus: A Quantum Low Pass for Photons

Physicists in Garching observe novel quantum effect that limits the number of emitted photons.

The probability to find a certain number of photons inside a laser pulse usually corresponds to a classical distribution of independent events, the so-called...

Im Focus: Microprocessors based on a layer of just three atoms

Microprocessors based on atomically thin materials hold the promise of the evolution of traditional processors as well as new applications in the field of flexible electronics. Now, a TU Wien research team led by Thomas Müller has made a breakthrough in this field as part of an ongoing research project.

Two-dimensional materials, or 2D materials for short, are extremely versatile, although – or often more precisely because – they are made up of just one or a...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Expert meeting “Health Business Connect” will connect international medical technology companies

20.04.2017 | Event News

Wenn der Computer das Gehirn austrickst

18.04.2017 | Event News

7th International Conference on Crystalline Silicon Photovoltaics in Freiburg on April 3-5, 2017

03.04.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Bare bones: Making bones transparent

27.04.2017 | Life Sciences

Study offers new theoretical approach to describing non-equilibrium phase transitions

27.04.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

From volcano's slope, NASA instrument looks sky high and to the future

27.04.2017 | Earth Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>