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Researchers Find New Link Between Protein and Various Diseases

Researchers at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia recently released the results of a study that identified a protein that could play a key role in a variety of diseases.

Researchers at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) recently released the results of a study that identified a protein that could play a key role in a variety of diseases.

The data, published in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, point to the FOXA2 (Forkhead Box A Transcription factor) protein family as being “a master regulator of genetically, vulnerable pathways,” according to co-author Struan F.A. Grant, PhD. Grant holds the Daniel B. Burke Chair for Diabetes Research at the facility and said the study could help with treatments for other similar diseases.

The study included an analysis of data by co-author Klaus H. Kaestner, PhD, who works at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. Data was collected using chromatin immunoprecipitation and massively parallel sequencing (ChIP-seq). The statement on the study noted that ChIP-seq, “isolates the pieces of DNA that are bound by a particular protein.”

Those fragments go through sequencing machines to “pinpoint and inventory the regions of the genome that specific transcription factors occupy.” By doing this it “allows investigators to better understand how transcription factors may activate or repress genes along important biological networks.”

In this study, the team looked at FOXA2, which already had been established as playing a role in a patient’s glucose levels, working under the hypothesis that it “regulated pathways important in endocrine biology,” the statement said.

While observing the protein, the researchers reported they were largely seen on sites in the genome that contained genes that affected “endocrine-related traits,” like a patient’s glycemic level. They also noted that the proteins did not affect type 2 diabetes. The proteins also were seen to interact with lipid levels as well as neuropsychiatric traits and cancer.

“FOXA2 appears to function as a master regulator for over a hundred other transcription factors, so it may play an outsized role in human health and disease,” said Grant.