Towards Solving a Birth-Defect Mystery
The cellular cause for birth defects of the palate, missing teeth, problems with fingers and toes has been a puzzle for science - which all may be related to the electrical charge of a cell
Now Professor Emily Bates and her biochemistry students at Brigham Young University have placed an important piece of the developmental puzzle in its correct order.
Their study of an ion channel regulating the electrical charge of a cell, shows that blocking this electrical channel disrupts a protein intended to carry differentiation orders to the nucleus.
Without those instructions, cells don’t become what they were supposed to become be that part of a palate, a tooth or a finger. Though there are various disorders that lead to birth defects, this newly discovered mechanism may be what some syndromes have in common.
The new study is published by the journal Development.
Bates and her graduate student, Giri Dahal, now want to apply the findings toward the prevention of particular birth defects those caused by fetal alcohol syndrome and fetal alcohol spectrum disorder.
“We think this ion channel might
be involved in a few similar disorders.
The important point is that it is
required for protein signaling,
which means that developmental signaling
pathways sense the electrical charge of a cell.
And that’s exciting for many reasons.”
Prof. Emily Bates, Brigham Young University
The new study results might also have implications for the battle against cancer. With cancer, cells are receiving a bad set of instructions to continuously multiply and spread. If a way can be devised to block an ion channel signals, it may be possible to stop cancerous instructions from communicating throughout the cell.
Bates:“This protein signaling pathway is the same one that tells cancer cells to metastasize. We’re planning to test a therapy to specifically block this channel in just the cells that we want to stop.”
Original article: http://news.byu.edu/archive12-sep-birthdefects.aspx