Magazine article Science News

Gene Tells Left from Right

Magazine article Science News

Gene Tells Left from Right

Article excerpt

Consider that each side of the body has its own eye, ear, arm, breast, and leg. Beneath the skin, however, this remarkable symmetry largely vanishes. The heart occupies the left side of the chest; the liver resides on the right. The right lung has fewer lobes than the left.

Biologists trying to explain how left-right asymmetries arise have recently discovered several genes that seem to prefer to act in just one side of a developing embryo (SN: 9/30/95, p. 223). In the mouse, for example, a gene active in the left portion of the growing embryo has earned the name lefty.

Whether such genes govern the establishment of left-right asymmetry or are merely turned on by other genes that actually control the process has been difficult to answer. Now, Hiroshi Hamada of Osaka University in Japan and his colleagues, the group that discovered lefty several years ago, have made mice that lack the gene. …

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