-- Robert Preidt
MONDAY, July 29 (HealthDay News) -- Researchers who pinpointed a
gene associated with neural tube defects in Weimaraners say the
gene may be an important risk factor for this type of birth defect
in people as well.
Each year, more than 300,000 babies worldwide are born with
neural tube defects such as spina bifida and anencephaly. These
defects are caused by incomplete closure or development of the
spine and skull.
"The cause of neural tube defects is poorly understood but has long been thought to be associated with genetic, nutritional and environmental factors," study lead author Noa Safra, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of California, Davis, School of Veterinary Medicine, said in a university news release.
Safra said several conditions associated with neural-tube
defects occur naturally in dogs. All of the DNA samples used in the
study were taken from household pets, not laboratory animals.
Safra and her colleagues found that a mutation in a gene called
NKX2-8 was associated with neural tube defects in Weimaraners, but
not in other dog breeds.
The team then analyzed DNA samples from 149 people with spina
bifida and found that six of them carried mutations of the NKX2-8
gene. However, further studies are needed to determine if these
mutations actually cause neural tube defects in people, the
The study was published July 18 in the journal
The U.S. National Institute of Child Health and Human
Development has more about
neural tube defects.
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