Organ growth discovery could advance the fight against cancer

Dr Chongzhi Zang and UVA collaborators have found the answer, revealing how genetic material known as chromatin interacts with other elements to turn genes on and off to effect variation. this essential.

“Intestinal development is a fascinating dynamic process from which we can learn how the same genome can be,” said Zang, of the Center for Public Health Genomics and UVA Cancer Center. produces many different types of cells in different organs. “We know that the genes used in different organs will start to show some difference early in development, but this is the first time we’ve discovered such a difference. controlled by chromatin during organogenesis.”

Understanding organ development

Zang and his colleagues, including collaborators led by Dr Tae-Hee Kim, of the University of Toronto in Canada, used advanced genetic technology known as “single-cell ATAC-seq” to generate a detailed “map” of the chromosomal pattern. changes that take place within individual cells in the intestinal tract during organogenesis in mice. In doing so, they filled many important gaps in our understanding of mammalian organ development.


The team found that chromatin exhibits different dynamics in cells that become livers, such as in cells that become lungs. Chromatin interacts with what are called “transcription factors” in an elegant way to train cells for the important jobs they have to do.

It is important that this complex process takes place correctly. The researchers found that errors can have serious consequences, such as disrupting the healthy development of the pancreas and intestines in lab mice. Significant changes were noted in the pancreas including the formation of many large, cyst-like structures.

The researchers note that the “cell fate” error occurs in the early stages of pancreatic cancer, leading to precancerous lesions. Thus, understanding organ development and what can go wrong can provide important insights into the formation of certain cancerous tumors.

“A better understanding of how genes in the genome function during organ development could give us insights into the mechanisms underlying the onset of many cancers,” said Zang. “We use state-of-the-art technologies to solve these complex problems and believe that these fundamental discoveries, one step at a time, will ultimately inspire new and beneficial therapeutic developments. benefit cancer patients in the future.”

Source: Eurekalert

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