Magazine article Science News

Mutant Gene Causes Heart Malformations

Magazine article Science News

Mutant Gene Causes Heart Malformations

Article excerpt

In the very early days of development, some cells in the human embryo migrate to the right and others travel to the left. Those that end up on the right are destined to become organs such as the liver. Those that move to the left will specialize to become the heart, stomach, and other left-sided organs.

For cells that will become the heart, reaching the proper position in the body is critical. If cells take a wrong turn, the heart will develop abnormally. Babies born with such cardiac misplacements often die or require extensive surgery.

But what gives primitive cells a road map to their proper destination? Researchers at Yale University School of Medicine believe that a gene and its protein product may act as traffic cops, directing cells that will become heart cells to swing to the left.

Donna Rounds, Martina Brueckner, and their coworkers have been studying a mutant gene that causes a misplacement of the heart in mice. …

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