Gene offers new lead in cleft lip research

U.S. scientists say they’ve found a gene called SUMO1, that, when underexpressed, can cause cleft lip and palate — one of the most common birth defects. Since the SUMO1 gene encodes a small protein that’s attached to the protein products of at least three previously discovered “clefting” genes, 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 University Medical School and senior author of the paper. “By protein network, I mean a nexus of proteins that interact in a highly regulated way,” he added. “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.” The study appears in the current issue of the journal Science.

Science Daily
October 10, 2006

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