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
JUL 23, 2020
Cardiology
Protecting the Heart After a Heart Attack
JUL 23, 2020
Protecting the Heart After a Heart Attack
Cardiovascular disease accounts for thirty percent of mortalities around the world. These diseases start small and slowl ...
JUL 28, 2020
Cancer
Should you get your DNA test for community-based genetic screening?
JUL 28, 2020
Should you get your DNA test for community-based genetic screening?
In a new study published in the journal Nature Medicine, researchers champion the potential of community-based gene ...
OCT 12, 2020
Cardiology
Pig Hearts Might be Used in Human Transplants by the End of 2021
OCT 12, 2020
Pig Hearts Might be Used in Human Transplants by the End of 2021
A major problem in the transplant field is a lack of healthy donor organs. For many years, scientists in the field of re ...
OCT 22, 2020
Cardiology
Using Liposomes to Deliver Repair Packages to the Heart
OCT 22, 2020
Using Liposomes to Deliver Repair Packages to the Heart
The secret to any successful drug is not just its ability to treat a disease but its ability to target the disease exclu ...
NOV 01, 2020
Neuroscience
Depression Increases Risk of Having a Stroke
NOV 01, 2020
Depression Increases Risk of Having a Stroke
Researchers in Alabama have found that people who suffer from multiple depressive symptoms are at an increased risk of h ...
NOV 20, 2020
Neuroscience
The Link Between Sleep Apnea and Autoimmune Disease
NOV 20, 2020
The Link Between Sleep Apnea and Autoimmune Disease
Researchers from the University of Georgia have found more evidence for the link between obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) a ...
Loading Comments...