DiGeorge syndrome gene mutation results in disrupted communication between cell types
Healthy development relies on countless collaborations between contrasting cells, each meeting at just the right moment like soulmates on a dance floor. One such rendezvous occurs early in the development of the nerves that underlie facial movement and feeling, between neural crest and placode cells – the precursors of pain-sensing neurons and mechanosensory neurons, which fine-tune behaviour by sensing and responding to movement. Genetic mutations that disrupt this coupling are linked to DiGeorge syndrome in children, which causes facial abnormalities and difficulties suckling and swallowing. Researchers examined the developing cranial nerves of mice (pictured) with the mutation and found communication between the cell types, rather than physical proximity, was disrupted, and that neural crest cells (highlighted in green) developed into pain-sensing neurons (red) too soon, upsetting the healthy balance. Deciphering the molecular details of the crosstalk is the next step in attempts to restore the broken communication and one day change lives.
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