CRG: A switch for the development of the heart muscle

CRG: A switch for the development of the heart muscle

News from CRG

It is arguably the hardest working muscle in our body and without its incessant, regular beating our organs would be starved of life-giving nutrients. Yet how the heart grows from a thin layer of cells in the embryo into this powerful and symbolic organ has remained largely unknown. Now researchers at the Centre for Genomic Regulation (CRG) in Barcelona have discovered a unique genetic switch that appears to guide stem cells so they develop into specialised heart muscle.

The findings, which are published in the journal Cell Stem Cell, could help to reveal the underlying causes of heart defects in congenital heart diseases. They may also lead to new ways of controlling stem cells in the laboratory to grow cellular repair kits for patients with damaged hearts. Led by Dr Luciano Di Croce, an epigeneticist at the CRG and ICREA Research Professor, the research team found a protein known as Mel18 is responsible for regulating a piece of cellular machinery that applies temporary silencers to the DNA in developing cells.

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Lluís Morey, Alexandra Santanach, Enrique Blanco, Elphège P. Nora, Benoit G. Bruneau, and Luciano Di Croce. “Polycomb Regulates Mesoderm Cell Fate–Specification in Embryonic Stem Cells Through Activation and Repression Mechanisms”, Cell Stem Cell, 3 September 2015.