Nebraska Medicine researcher spearheads study to prevent developmental disorders

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Photo courtesy of Nebraska Medicine Nebraska Medicine researcher, Steve Caplan, Ph.D., has worked with professors and stu-dents from across the country to discover the root cause of developmental disorders.
Photo courtesy of Nebraska Medicine Nebraska Medicine researcher, Steve Caplan, Ph.D., has worked with professors and students from across the country to discover the root cause of developmental disorders.

By Jackson Taylor, News Editor

Nebraska Medicine researcher Steve Caplan, Ph.D., coauthored a study that appeared in the online edition of Nature Cell Biology, one of the world’s leading science journals, on Feb. 16.

The study looked at the formation of primary cilia, which are found in nearly every cell type and protrude from the cell membrane.

For more than 50 years, primary cilia were thought to have no real function. Recent studies have suggested otherwise.

Researchers say that primary cilia provide stability during tissue development.

Subsequently, cilia that are defective can cause many diseases and developmental disorders known as ciliopathies. One of these diseases is Bardet-Biedl syndrome which can result in polydactyly (or extra fingers), mental retardation and developmental delays.

Discovering that primary cilia has an important function is a giant step towards treating and preventing such diseases.

“One of the great things about science is that despite trying to control everything,’ often the most fascinating ideas and discoveries are serendipitous,” Caplan stated in a UNMC press release. “This highlights the significance of funding biomedical research; the more science being done, the more likely we are to make unexpected major scientific breakthroughs.”

Caplan collaborated on the study with professors from the University of California–San Diego and Stanford University.

Members of his lab who contributed to this research include:

Naava Naslavsky, Ph.D., assistant professor, biochemistry and molecular biology, and a co-investigator

James Reinecke, M.D./Ph.D., student

Shuwei Xie, Ph.D., student

Kriti Bahl, Ph.D., student

Juliati Rahajeng, Ph.D., a graduate of Dr. Caplan’s lab who is now a postdoc at the University of California–San Diego and was a co-author and helped initiate the cilia project.

“Since we had each just begun our studies,” Caplan said, “we decided that joining forces would be the most effective way to drive the research forward.”

Caplan and his team extensively studied a family of proteins calledC-terminal EHD proteins that play key roles in regulating protein trafficking events. Through several tests on cell lines, zebrafish and mouse fibroblasts derived from animals lacking EHD proteins, the group was able to convey the importance of EHD proteins and their serviceable use in cilia generation.

To view the study that appeared inNature Cell Biology visit unothegateway.com.

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