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Study finds how organs monitor themselves during early development

NEW YORK, August 27, 2006 How are you? In biological terms this question could involve a feedback loop that lets the body check in on itself and then act on that information. Although feedback loops are essential and they abound in biology, they aren't well understood. Feedback loops enable an organ such as the liver to detect if it is injured, ascertain if it is growing and developing normally, and if it needs to regenerate itself. When such loops derail, cancer and other diseases can arise.

Scientists at NYU School of Medicine have unraveled the signals in a feedback loop governing ovarian development. This work has been several years in the making and is being published on 27 August in the Advance Online issue of the journal Nature.

"I think our study has indeed important implications that extend beyond understanding of how a gonad such as the ovary develops," explains Dr. Ruth Lehmann, Ph.D., Julius Raynes Professor of Developmental Genetics and Howard Hughes Medical Investigator. "In every organ, may it be a gonad, a liver, or a thymus, different tissues contribute to the organ, and the growth of the different tissues has to be coordinated both during normal development and during regeneration."

Tapping into that kind of powerful feedback loop could help treat many kinds of disorders and show how the power of stem cells could be harnessed to help organs call different cell types into action and regenerate, the researchers said. Stem cells are cells that have not yet specialized and can develop into any number of different cell types. They also have the remarkable ability to self-renew indefinitely.

The organism studied is one that does not enjoy much public appreciation but is favored in many genetics labs: Drosophila melanogaster, the fruit fly. Dr. Lehmann and post-doctoral fellow Lilach Gilboa, Ph.D., decoded the process in the developing fruit fly ovary that allows the ovary to monitor the number of germ cells
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Contact: Jennifer Choi
jennifer.choi@nyumc.org
212-404-3555
New York University Medical Center and School of Medicine
27-Aug-2006


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