Mice engineered to grow old before their time may help researchers understand premature ageing syndromes, according to a study in this week's Nature (pp. 298-301).
Mice with a mutation of the lamin A gene (Lmna) grow slowly and die by the time they are 4 weeks old, according to Colin L. Stewart and colleagues of the National Cancer Institute, Frederick, Maryland. Defects in the bone, muscle and skin of these mice resemble those seen in patients with Hutchinson-Gilford progeria syndrome (HGPS), a rare condition that affects one out of 8 million newborns. Cultured cells from the mice also die prematurely.
In a paper already published online by Nature (and now appearing in print in this issue) Francis S. Collins of the National Human Genome Research Institute, Bethesda, Maryland, and colleagues reveal that a single-letter substitution in the genetic code may cause the premature ageing seen in children with HGPS. This discovery may help patient diagnosis. Together the two papers may also shed light on the general phenomenon of human ageing.
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(Francis Collins can be contacted via Larry Thompson in the NHGRI Communications office tel +1 301 594 0954, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org)
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