Researchers find master gene behind blood vessel development

Feb 04, 2009

In a first of its kind discovery, University of Minnesota researchers have identified the "master gene" behind blood vessel development. Better understanding of how this gene operates in the early stages of development may help researchers find better treatments for heart disease and cancer.

Using genetically engineered mice, researchers with the University of Minnesota Medical School's Lillehei Heart Institute were able to identify a protein, Nkx2-5, which activates a certain gene, and in turn, determines the fate of a group of cells in a developing embryo.

"If we can understand the mechanism, or how certain stem cells choose a particular path, we can alter it to prevent or treat disease," said Daniel Garry, M.D., Ph.D., lead researcher, executive director of the institute, and chief of the cardiovascular division in the Department of Medicine. "This gene discovery provides the key to unlocking the secret of how blood vessels grow."

Researchers knew that certain precursor cells, or progenitor cells, become the three types of cells that make up the cardiovascular system: smooth muscle, endothelial (blood vessel), and cardiac muscle. What they didn't know, until now, is how those progenitor cells end up as one type or another. Garry likened the team's discovery to finding the recipe of how certain cells become blood vessels.

By understanding how the cells develop, Garry said they will be able to study how they might modify the gene to create a desired response.

"Next we are looking at how we could over-express the gene or knock it down," he said.

For example, in the case of heart disease or heart failure, they may be able to "turn on" the gene to make it create new, healthy blood vessels. Or, in the case of cancer, they could turn off the gene to limit blood supply to a tumor, causing it to shrink.

The research appeared in a recent issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Source: University of Minnesota

Explore further: Down's chromosome cause genome-wide disruption

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Is eating DNA safe?

Dec 05, 2013

Eating DNA sounds scary but it's completely safe. I do it every day. Let me explain.

A bio patch that can regrow bone

Nov 07, 2013

Researchers at the University of Iowa have created a bio patch to regenerate missing or damaged bone by putting DNA into a nano-sized particle that delivers bone-producing instructions directly into cells.

Recommended for you

Down's chromosome cause genome-wide disruption

6 hours ago

The extra copy of Chromosome 21 that causes Down's syndrome throws a spanner into the workings of all the other chromosomes as well, said a study published Wednesday that surprised its authors.

Research uncovers DNA looping damage tied to HPV cancer

13 hours ago

It's long been known that certain strains of human papillomavirus (HPV) cause cancer. Now, researchers at The Ohio State University have determined a new way that HPV might spark cancer development – by ...

New therapy against rare gene defects

Apr 15, 2014

On 15th April is the 1st International Pompe Disease Day, a campaign to raise awareness of this rare but severe gene defect. Pompe Disease is only one of more than 40 metabolic disorders that mainly affect children under ...

User comments : 0

More news stories

Down's chromosome cause genome-wide disruption

The extra copy of Chromosome 21 that causes Down's syndrome throws a spanner into the workings of all the other chromosomes as well, said a study published Wednesday that surprised its authors.

Simplicity is key to co-operative robots

A way of making hundreds—or even thousands—of tiny robots cluster to carry out tasks without using any memory or processing power has been developed by engineers at the University of Sheffield, UK.

Progress in the fight against quantum dissipation

(Phys.org) —Scientists at Yale have confirmed a 50-year-old, previously untested theoretical prediction in physics and improved the energy storage time of a quantum switch by several orders of magnitude. ...