(HealthDay News) – Distinct chromatin patterns accompany the development of heart cells from embryonic cells, providing a blueprint that could help identify the causes of congenital heart disease, according to a study published online Sept 13 in Cell.

Joseph A. Wamstad, PhD, from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, and colleagues analyzed the epigenetic changes that occur during the directed differentiation of mouse embryonic stem cells into cardiomyocytes and used chromatin marks to identify patterns associated with stage-specific development.

The researchers found that distinct chromatin patterns were associated with stage-specific gene expression and could predict sets of functionally related genes, some of which were associated with human disease. In addition, a novel preactivation chromatin pattern was found at the promoters of specific cardiac genes involved in cardiac development and function. They also identified stage-specific distal enhancers that predicted novel transcriptional regulatory networks during differentiation as well as potential new regulators of cardiac development.

“Together, these findings form a basis for understanding developmentally regulated chromatin transitions during lineage commitment and the molecular etiology of congenital heart disease,” Wamstad and colleagues conclude.

One author is a scientific founder of iPieirian and is on the scientific advisory boards of iPieirian and RegeneRx Pharmaceuticals.

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