Role of ciliary proteins in vision and obesity

The cilium is an extension on most cells and tissues that works similarly to a television antenna, in that it receives signals from the environment. When a mutation disrupts the function of cilia, cells no longer receive the proper environmental input. Mutations in cilia proteins have been identified in patients with clinical ailments such as blindness, obesity, diabetes and polycystic kidney disease; some are also found in syndromes encompassing all or most of these disorders. Although some of these syndromes affect entire families, the molecular and cellular causes of these disorders have not been identified or characterized; for this reason there are no therapies available. Dr. Victor Jensen aims to study and identify novel cilia genes that are associated with multiple disorders, including blindness and obesity. These results will provide essential information about the association between disease and different genes, as well as the function of cilia. This unique approach to gene discovery and characterization was developed in the laboratory of Dr. Leroux, and has already led to the discovery and understanding of numerous disease genes, including those associated with the multi-systemic Bardet-Biedl syndrome. Dr. Jensen’s research work is therefore aimed at providing novel insights into the nature and function of disease genes, a step that will eventually lead to improved treatments or prevention of common human medical ailments.