Studies of genes in mice and common worm may accelerate research on blood diseases, cancers

ncovering the counterpart but more complex genetic patterns in mice, and mice patterns are closely akin to the still more complex human genetic mechanisms, he said.

Camerons later mouse study revealed that when the Gfi-1b gene is muted in mice, their blood-stem cells fail to form red cells and platelets, causing mice embryos to die 11-12 days after fertilization. Related research has shown that knocking out the sister Gfi-1 gene prevents development of certain white blood cells, resulting in the mice dying shortly after birth.

The blood-cell genetic defects in the mice were precisely consistent with the defect identified in embryonic nerve cells in C. elegans. I can use forthcoming studies of cell development in the worm to tell me what experiments to do in the mouse, Cameron said.

Different mutations in the Gfi-1 gene have been linked to some cancer tumors in mice.

Cameron hopes to find comparable links to cancer tumors in humans, though he cautions that gene numbers, roles, mutations and other variants contrast sharply between the mouse and human genomes and raise major challenges for human-disease research. But I know that, overall, Im in the right genetic neighborhood, he said.

Since the early 1960s, the study of microscopic C. elegans has yielded insights on mammalian genetics because, Cameron said, this worm is the only animal found to have known cell-division patterns that dont vary during maturation from fertilized larval egg to adult.

One of the most abundant animal species on earth, the worm will eat your tomatoes, he noted, but it has also become a powerful research tool.

His ongoing work, which could ultimately reveal a molecular pathway to reverse or modify blood-linked genetic defects, and the two recent studies began while he worked as a researcher and physician at the Dana Farber Cancer Institute of Harvard Medical School in Boston and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge.


Contact: Worth Wren Jr.
UT Southwestern Medical Center

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