Researchers at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center
have discovered a central molecular switch in fruit fly embryos that open a new path for studying the causes of birth defects and cancer in humans.
In the August 12 issue of Developmental Cell
, scientists write that the switch is the main tuning mechanism for instructing cells whether to form sensory nerves or blood cells in different parts of the body.
Researchers now must study the balance between two types of genes - Hox and Sens - and how birth defects and disease are caused when one type of gene becomes excessively dominant.
Scientists are also studying competition between the genes and its control of a growth factor called Gfi-1, which ongoing mouse studies have suggested could have implications for leukemia.
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