Adam Tuttle, postdoctoral fellow in Developmental and Cell Biology, and colleagues in Professor Thomas Schilling’s Lab, recently identified a protein, Rbc3a, which could be a therapeutic target for resolving birth defects and cancers. Tuttle’s study published in the May 6 issue of PLoS Biology.
In the study, Tuttle and colleagues found that Rbc3a is required for normal cell migration of neural crest cells in developing embryos. By understanding the molecular and genetic regulators of migration in these neural crest cells, scientists are one step closer to identifying potential causes and therapies for human birth defects including one of the most common birth defects, cleft palate.
Tuttle and his colleagues studied cell migration in zebrafish and found that neural crest cells failed to migrate properly in those embryos with a reduced amount of Rbc3a protein, which meant improper development of the embryo. Rbc3a links several major cellular processes in these cells necessary for their migration.
The scientists hope that further exploration of how these cellular processes are coordinated will help us understand many aspects of development and can give us insight into relevant cell behaviors such as cancer invasion and metastasis.