MAY 23, 2017 4:37 PM PDT

Key Regulatory Gene Vital for Heart Valve Development

WRITTEN BY: Kara Marker

The human heart begins to beat four weeks into pregnancy, which means that cardiac valve defects develop as early as four weeks. With congenital heart defects causing the majority of birth defect-related deaths, the recent discovery of a key regulatory gene involved in cardiac valve formation provides promise for researchers looking to intervene.

Credit: FierceBiotech

Heart valves are responsible for maintaining the regular flow and pressure of blood in and out of the heart’s chambers, the atria and ventricles. Structural problems with these valves prevent blood, packed with oxygen and nutrients, from reaching tissues all over the body, including in the brain and other organs.

From the University of Basel, in a study published in the journal Cell Reports, researchers discovered for the first time a heart defect in mouse embryos caused by a lack of a protein called HAND2. The gene coding for HAND2 was previously associated with cardiac valve formation, but now scientists are finally uncovering the molecular mechanisms and the network of genes controlled by HAND2 that are involved in the development of congenital defects.

With functional HAND2, cells contributing to cardiac valve precursors, called “cardiac cushions,” are rearranged and migrate away from the heart wall lining. Without HAND2, the cardiac cushions don’t properly develop into valves.

“Not only does this discovery advance our molecular knowledge of cardiac valve development, but it may also help to provide genetic diagnosis for patients that suffer from congenital heart malformations,” explained first author of the study Fréderic Laurent.

Heart valve replacement procedures are available and common for children born with heart valve defects. The future potential to create replacement valves from stem cells could make these procedures even more effective and long-lasting, and the study authors believe that their recent finding could help make this idea a reality: “The discovery that HAND2 is a key regulator of the cellular and gene regulatory processes underlying heart valve formation is a potential milestone in this direction.”

Source: University of Basel

About the Author
  • I am a scientific journalist and enthusiast, especially in the realm of biomedicine. I am passionate about conveying the truth in scientific phenomena and subsequently improving health and public awareness. Sometimes scientific research needs a translator to effectively communicate the scientific jargon present in significant findings. I plan to be that translating communicator, and I hope to decrease the spread of misrepresented scientific phenomena! Check out my science blog: ScienceKara.com.
You May Also Like
NOV 24, 2020
Cardiology
Patients on Statins Get the 'Nocebo Effect'
NOV 24, 2020
Patients on Statins Get the 'Nocebo Effect'
Millions of people around the world take statins to treat high cholesterol, which are estimated to reduce the risk of he ...
DEC 08, 2020
Cardiology
The Protein Galectin-1 Could Act as a Prognostic Marker for Coronary Artery Disease
DEC 08, 2020
The Protein Galectin-1 Could Act as a Prognostic Marker for Coronary Artery Disease
The complexity of life works in many ways. Proteins, the primary things doing work in cells, can be modified after being ...
MAR 30, 2021
Cardiology
Looking at a Fertility Drug's Cardiac Safety
MAR 30, 2021
Looking at a Fertility Drug's Cardiac Safety
New drugs go through a long and arduous process before they can grace a doctor’s office. One of the last steps is ...
APR 14, 2021
Cardiology
Activity At Work Doesn't Benefit Like Leisure Time Exercise
APR 14, 2021
Activity At Work Doesn't Benefit Like Leisure Time Exercise
A new study that examined the habits and health conditions of thousands of people has suggested that exercise that's don ...
MAY 18, 2021
Clinical & Molecular DX
A Crystal Ball for Predicting Labor Day
MAY 18, 2021
A Crystal Ball for Predicting Labor Day
Expectant mothers may no longer have to be caught off guard—researchers have identified biomarkers in the blood th ...
JUN 29, 2021
Immunology
The Heartbreaking Nature of COVID Revealed
JUN 29, 2021
The Heartbreaking Nature of COVID Revealed
Researchers at the Washington University School are getting to the root of heart damage resulting from COVID-19 infectio ...
Loading Comments...