NASET News Alert

GENE OFFERS NEW LEAD IN CLEFT LIP AND PALATE RESEARCH

September 23, 2006

Researchers supported by the National Institutes of Health report in the
current issue of the journal "Science" that a much-studied gene called
SUMO1, when under expressed, can cause cleft lip and palate, one of the
world's most common birth defects.

With several genes already implicated in causing cleft lip and palate,
the authors note their addition to the list comes with a unique
biological twist.  The SUMO1 gene encodes a small protein that is
attached to the protein products of at least three previously discovered
"clefting" genes during facial development, in essence linking them into
or near a shared regulatory pathway and now hotspot for clefting.

"The big challenge for research on cleft lip and palate is to move from
studying individual genes to defining individual protein networks," said
Dr. Richard Maas, a scientist at Brigham and Women's Hospital and
Harvard Medical School and senior author on the paper.  His research is
supported by NIH's National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial
Research (NIDCR) and the National Institute of General Medical Sciences
(NIGMS).

"By protein network, I mean a nexus of proteins that interact in a
highly regulated way," he continued.  "It's at this dynamic, real-time
level that science will begin to see the big picture and tease out more
of the needed insights to understand and hopefully eventually prevent
cleft lip and palate in newborns.  What's exciting about SUMO1 is it
allows us for the first time to begin to connect at least some of the
dots and hopefully lock into a highly informative protein network that
feeds into additional protein networks to form the palate, or roof of
the mouth."

To read the entire article visit

http://www.nih.gov/news/pr/sep2006/nidcr-21.htm.

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