How we tell front from back (2/5/2008)
Scientists have accidentally discovered the genetics behind how we develop a front and back.
Research undertaken at The University of Auckland is looking at genes that control the development of embryos, specifically those involved in the development of the gut immune system. Whilst looking at a specific group of genes, the runx genes, they have identified a long-sought genetic switch that "tells" an embryo to develop a different front and back.
The results of the research are published this week in the Advance Online Publication of Nature Cell Biology.
"After fertilisation, embryonic genes are switched on that prompt the formation of different axes, which allow development of a front and back, left and right, top and bottom etc," says Dr Maria Flores of the Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences. "The genetic control for the front-back axis, or dorsoventral, has been a puzzling gap for a number of years. Quite unexpectedly, our research has identified this gene, Runx2, whilst looking at genes involved in stem cell development and the gut immune system."
The research focuses on the genes involved in the development of the gut immune system of zebrafish, an organism which has similar genetic pathways to humans. The aim of the research is to identify genes which may be important in development of human gut diseases, such as Crohn's disease.
The project was funded by the Foundation of Research Science and Technology, under the New Economy Research Fund (NERF), in the laboratory of Phil and Kathy Crosier. Enid Lam, a PhD student also involved in the research, is the recipient of a TEC Bright Futures Top Achiever scholarship.
Note: This story has been adapted from a news release issued by The University of Auckland