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Academic Innovations
November 1, 2006

Cilia Database Offers Clues to Diseases

JAMA. 2006;296(17):2081. doi:10.1001/jama.296.17.2081

Cilia, tiny hairlike structures on the surface of cells and once considered evolutionary artifacts in humans, have gained new respect since scientists discovered that impaired cilia play a role in a variety of disorders, including polycystic kidney disease and such rare genetic diseases as Bardet-Biedl syndrome and Meckel-Gruber syndrome.

Ciliated cells, which are present in several organs and tissues, are important for cell locomotion, sexual reproduction, and fluid movement, but much remains unknown about these specialized organelles. Realizing that apparently disparate disorders may result from cilia dysfunction, scientists have begun grouping together these ciliopathies to help accelerate the scientific understanding of cilia, and one group of researchers has created an extensive database of the genes and proteins involved in cilia function (Gherman A et al. Nat Genet. 2006;38:961-962).