We think we have found a way of efficiently studying how early blood-cell development is controlled and how gene defects in this process might lead to the development of blood diseases, including cancer, said Dr. Scott Cameron, an assistant professor of pediatrics and molecular biology and a pediatric oncologist who joined UT Southwestern in July.
His research, reported in the April 8 issue of the journal Development, found that the pag-3 gene determines the fate of embryonic nerve cells in the microscopic worm Caenorhabditis elegans, a common soil nematode that became the first animal to have its genome sequenced.
I showed that the gene in the worm, C. elegans, determines what the daughter cells will become after a cell division in the nervous system, Cameron said.
On the basis of what he and his colleagues learned from the worm, they collaborated in a subsequent study to knock out the counterpart mouse genes, which perform similar cell-determination functions but in the blood cells.
In the gene-deprived mice, I found a defect in blood formation exactly consistent with what was predicted by the worm work, said Cameron, the principal investigator who collaborated with Dr. Stuart Orkins lab at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute at Harvard Medical School and with Childrens Hospital, both in Boston. The mice study was published first, in the February issue of Genes & Development.
His pag-3 gene study found that a mutation resulted in a failure of the worm to develop neuron cells controlling forward and backward mobility. Worms with the mutated pag-3 do not move well, Cameron said.