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First 'atlas' of key brain genes could speed research on cancer, neurological diseases

Researchers at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute have compiled the first atlas showing the locations of crucial gene regulators, or switches that determine how different parts of the brain develop ?and, in some cases, develop abnormally or malfunction. The scientists say the map will accelerate research on brain tumors and neurological diseases that result from mutations in these switch genes ?called “transcription factors.?When these genes are altered, the genes they control can go awry, causing abnormalities in the development or function of nerves and related structures. Although the gene regulators were pinpointed using mouse brains, the map applies to the human brain as well.

“This is the first systematic mapping of all of the major brain areas that shows what regulatory genes are expressed in those specific locations,?said Quifu Ma, PhD, of Dana-Farber’s Cancer Biology Department. He is senior author of a paper appearing in today’s online issue of the journal Science, along with Charles D. Stiles, PhD, also of Dana-Farber. Transcription factors are genes that control the expression, or activity, of “target?genes. These factors play a pivotal role in brain development by direction the formation of neurons and supporting cells called glia from uncommitted progenitor cells. Until now, brain transcription factors had not been systematically isolated and their locations within different parts of the brain pinned down. The map should tell scientists studying different parts of the brain, which transcription factor (TF) genes regulate the development of that brain region, and which of them to investigate as possible causes of brain tumors and other diseases. The Dana-Farber researchers already have homed in on specific TF genes regulating nerves involved in pain sensation, certain brain tumors, and speech problems caused by abnormally developing motor neurons that control muscles of the tongue. The map, known as the Mahoney Transcription Factor Atlas, has been pla
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Source:Dana-Farber Cancer Institute


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