The Bmi1 gene is a double-edged sword, research in the 18 March 2004 issue of Nature (Vol. 428, No. 6980, pp. 337-341) suggests. It promotes cell growth in the developing brain, but may also prompt tumour development.
Bmi1 is found in proliferating cerebellar precursor cells in the developing mouse and human brain, report Silvia Marino and colleagues. When the gene is absent, cerebellar neurons proliferate less.
But Bmi1 overexpression may cause excessive proliferation and tumour formation. The protein is found in primary human medulloblastomas, a type of brain tumour, the team report.
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