New insights into neural tube defects

January 11, 2006

Environmental and genetic factors lead to neural tube defects in 1 in every 1,000 births and cause 1 in 20 of every spontaneous abortion. One cause of these defects is the failure of cells within the neural tube to migrate to the middle of the developing neural tube.

A study in this week's issue of Nature is the first to report on the molecular mechanism that directs cells to migrate to the correct local within the developing neural tube of vertebrates.

Marek Mlodzik, PhD, Professor, Molecular, Cell and Development Biology at Mount Sinai School of Medicine has previously reported that the asymmetrical distribution of specific proteins within neural tissues in fruit flies controls the orientation and migration of cells.

Working with colleagues Brian Ciruna, Diana Lee, and Alexander Schier, who were at New York University when the research was conducted, and Andreas Jenny of Mount Sinai, Dr. Mlodzik's and Dr. Schier's laboratories have now found that a similar mechanism is at work in vertebrates.

During cell division the polarity of a cell is lost. Therefore, the newly formed daughter cells initially lack the information to direct them to migrate to the midline where they are needed for proper neural tube development. The report in Nature is the first to demonstrate that the polarity is restored to the daughter cells after rather than during cell division and to provide the specific molecules involved in restoring polarity.

After cell division, proteins that direct the polarity of the cell distribute asymmetrically. This distribution restores polarity in the daughter cell, directing them to migrate to the midline of the neural tube.
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This research was funded by grants from the National Institutes of Health.

MOUNT SINAI SCHOOL OF MEDICINE
Located in Manhattan, Mount Sinai School of Medicine is internationally recognized for ground-breaking clinical and basic-science research, and innovative approaches to medical education. Through the Mount Sinai Graduate School of Biological Sciences, Mount Sinai trains biomedical researchers with an emphasis on the rapid translation of discoveries of basic research into new techniques for fighting disease. One indication of Mount Sinai's leadership in scientific investigation is its receipt during fiscal year 2004 of $153.2 million. Mount Sinai now ranks 25th among the nation's medical schools in receipt of research support from NIH. Mount Sinai School of Medicine also is known for unique educational programs such as the Humanities in Medicine program, which creates opportunities for liberal arts students to pursue medical school, and instructional innovations like The Morchand Center, the nation's largest program teaching students and physicians with "standardized patients" to become not only highly skilled, but compassionate caregivers. Long dedicated to improving its community, the School extends its boundaries to work with East Harlem and surrounding communities to provide access to health care and educational programs to at risk populations.

The Mount Sinai Hospital / Mount Sinai School of Medicine

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