Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Deadly Genetic Disease Prevented Before Birth In Zebrafish

Date:
March 21, 2008
Source:
Washington University School of Medicine
Summary:
By injecting a customized "genetic patch" into early stage fish embryos, researchers were able to correct a genetic mutation so the embryos developed normally. The research could lead to the prevention of up to one-fifth of birth defects in humans caused by genetic mutations, according to the scientists involved in the study.

Zebrafish
Credit: Image courtesy of Washington University School of Medicine

By injecting a customized "genetic patch" into early stage fish embryos, researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis were able to correct a genetic mutation so the embryos developed normally.

The research could lead to the prevention of up to one-fifth of birth defects in humans caused by genetic mutations, according to the authors.

Erik C. Madsen, first author and an M.D./Ph.D. student in the Medical Scientist Training Program at Washington University School of Medicine, made the groundbreaking discovery using a zebrafish model of Menkes disease, a rare, inherited disorder of copper metabolism caused by a mutation in the human version of the ATP7A gene. Zebrafish are vertebrates that develop similarly to humans, and their transparency allows researchers to observe embryonic development.

Children who have Menkes disease have seizures, extensive neurodegeneration in the gray matter of the brain, abnormal bone development and kinky, colorless hair. Most children with Menkes die before age 10, and treatment with copper is largely ineffective.

The development of organs in the fetus is nearly complete at a very early stage. By that time, the mutation causing Menkes disease has already affected brain and nerve development.

Madsen and Bryce Mendelsohn, also an M.D./Ph.D. student at the School of Medicine, wondered if they could prevent the Menkes-like disease in zebrafish by correcting genetic mutations that impair copper metabolism during the brief period in which organs develop. Both students work in the lab of Jonathan D. Gitlin, M.D., the Helene B. Roberson Professor of Pediatrics at the School of Medicine and director of Genetics and Genomic Medicine at St. Louis Children's Hospital.

The researchers used zebrafish with two different mutations in the ATP7A gene, resulting in a disease in the fish that has many of the same characteristics of the human Menkes disease. Madsen designed a specific therapy to correct each mutation with morpholinos, synthetic molecules that modify gene expression. The zebrafish embryos were injected with the customized therapy during the critical window of development, and the researchers found that the zebrafish hatched and grew without any discernable defects.

"This method of copper delivery suggests that the prevention of the neurodegenerative features in Menkes disease in children may be possible with therapeutic interventions that correct the genetic defect within a specific developmental window," Madsen said.

The genetic mutations Madsen and the researchers worked with are caused by splicing defects, or an interruption in genetic code. The morpholinos prevent that interruption by patching over the defect so the gene can generate its normal product.

"Consider the genetic code as a book, and someone has put in random letters or gibberish in the middle of the book," Madsen said. "To be able to read the book, you have to ignore the gibberish. If we can make cells ignore the gibberish, or the splicing defect, the fetus can develop normally."

Up to 20 percent of genetic diseases are caused by splicing defects, Madsen said, so this treatment method could potentially be used for many other genetic diseases.

"The idea is that we can modify the treatment to target a specific mutation and design molecules to alter gene function in the same way the morpholino oligonucleotides can," Gitlin said.

The work is an important step toward personalized medicine, which can tailor treatment to an individual's genetic makeup.

"Eventually we would like to know each person's genome sequence so we know what mutations each person has that may lead to disease," Gitlin said. "That way, you don't get a drug for cancer that works against any kind of cancer, you get a drug for the specific mutation that causes your cancer. That's what personalized medicine is all about."

Journal reference: Madsen EC, Morcos PA, Mendelsohn BA, Gitlin, JD. In vivo correction of a Menkes disease model using antisense oligonucleotides. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, early edition, March 3, 2008.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Washington University School of Medicine. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Washington University School of Medicine. "Deadly Genetic Disease Prevented Before Birth In Zebrafish." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 21 March 2008. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/03/080320155644.htm>.
Washington University School of Medicine. (2008, March 21). Deadly Genetic Disease Prevented Before Birth In Zebrafish. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 30, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/03/080320155644.htm
Washington University School of Medicine. "Deadly Genetic Disease Prevented Before Birth In Zebrafish." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/03/080320155644.htm (accessed July 30, 2014).

Share This




More Health & Medicine News

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Generics Eat Into Pfizer's Sales

Generics Eat Into Pfizer's Sales

Reuters - Business Video Online (July 29, 2014) Pfizer, the world's largest drug maker, cut full-year revenue forecasts because generics could cut into sales of its anti-arthritis drug, Celebrex. Fred Katayama reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Nigeria Ups Ebola Stakes on 1st Death

Nigeria Ups Ebola Stakes on 1st Death

Reuters - Business Video Online (July 29, 2014) Nigerian authorities have shut and quarantined a Lagos hospital where a Liberian man died of the Ebola virus, the first recorded case of the highly-infectious disease in Africa's most populous economy. David Pollard reports Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Running 5 Minutes A Day Might Add Years To Your Life

Running 5 Minutes A Day Might Add Years To Your Life

Newsy (July 29, 2014) According to a new study, just five minutes of running or jogging a day could add years to your life. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Ebola Outbreak Poses Little Threat To U.S.: CDC

Ebola Outbreak Poses Little Threat To U.S.: CDC

Newsy (July 29, 2014) The Ebola outbreak in West Africa poses little threat to Americans, according to officials with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins