The enigma of the woman who turns into bone whereas her an identical twin stays wholesome | Science & Tech
An egg from Loló Suárez and a sperm from Eduardo Agraso merged at some point in 2010 to type a single cell with the same DNAfrom which two an identical twin sisters, Cayetana and Celia, have been born. Right now each are 12, take pleasure in swimming on the seashore by their village (Portosin, northwestern Spain) and share the identical genetic mutation – though Celia has virtually no signs, whereas Cayetana’s muscle tissues are shortly turning into bone. A yr and a half in the past, the woman herself requested that each her legs, already petrified, be amputated to make her life simpler. Pediatrician Federico Martinón Torres co-leads the medical group that works towards the clock to grasp why the illness has it in for one sister and respects the opposite. Celia might conceal the key, or no less than a clue, to remedy the pathology. “It appeared like an ideal experiment: two an identical folks, one sick and the opposite wholesome, but it surely’s not turning out to be so apparent,” laments Martinón.
The ladies have progressive osseous heteroplasia, an extremely rare disease that, based on the calculations of the American physician Fred Kaplan, who found the dysfunction three many years in the past, impacts solely 100 folks on this planet. “That is essentially the most severe case I do know of,” explains the researcher. In Cayetana, the illness is explosive. If her mother and father discover a tiny callus beneath her pores and skin on a Friday, by Sunday it might have was a large bony plaque. There isn’t a preventive or healing therapy, past present process frequent surgical procedures to take away the brand new bone.
Martinón’s concern is clear. “We’re all the time one step behind the illness,” acknowledges the physician, head of Pediatrics on the College Scientific Hospital of Santiago de Compostela. “We have now tried loads of issues, the whole lot that made sense. And so far, we now have failed. That’s the fact,” he says. “You could have a affected person admitted, however you don’t have anything to supply her. Not solely us: no one on this planet.”
Twins have such a particular bond that “I” and “we” turn into interchangeable. Cayetana and Celia grew up glad within the fishing village of Portosin, however with out understanding why, in the event that they have been an identical, the illness was making them more and more totally different. DNA is an instruction e-book that’s current in each cell. It’s written with roughly three billion letters, that are the initials of chemical compounds with totally different quantities of carbon, hydrogen, oxygen and nitrogen. The sisters’ mutation entails the lack of solely 4 letters: G, A, C and T, the initials for guanine (C₅H₅N₅O), adenine (C₅H₅N₅), cytosine (C₄H₅N₃O) and thymine (C₅H₆N₂O₂). These 4 lacking letters trigger the inactivation of the GNAS gene, which is liable for stopping bone formation within the fallacious place.
The bony plaques generally sprout like needles, explains the ladies’ mom. “Caye has advised me that she doesn’t know what it’s to live a day without pain,” continues Loló Suárez. Determined on the lack of analysis on the illness, in 2016 the mother and father determined to arrange a company to right the state of affairs: the Galician Affiliation of Progressive Osseous Heteroplasia. They’ve already raised greater than €200,000 ($225,000), principally destined to financing the scientific group. However the clock retains ticking. Cayetana, good and cheerful, takes the amputation of her legs with a dose of darkish humor. Simply the opposite day, at house, her mom mentioned, “It smells like toes in right here!” To which the woman replied with amusing: “Properly, it’s not mine, mother!”
Geneticist Antonio Salas, co-director of the analysis group, explains his important speculation. The mother and father should not have the mutation, so it will need to have appeared after the fertilization of the egg, earlier than the embryo cut up in two so the 2 an identical sisters might start to develop. If DNA is a sequence of letters, epigenetic modifications are chemical compounds that act as punctuation marks that may alter the message. Throughout the formation of eggs and sperm, these marks are added to the DNA and may trigger a gene to be turned on or off, relying on whether or not it was inherited from the daddy or the mom. This complicated phenomenon, generally known as imprinting, dictates the functioning of the GNAS gene, “one of the vital complicated within the human genome,” based on Salas.
The researchers imagine that the 2 sisters share the identical mutation, however Cayetana additionally has an imprint that causes the GNAS gene to be activated or deactivated in sure components of her physique. That is what scientists name mosaicism: the woman would have two varieties of cells, every with a distinct epigenetic composition. “That is all speculative. Sadly, we lack proof. We might be fully fallacious,” admits Salas, a professor on the College of Medication of the College of Santiago de Compostela.
The Mexican biochemist María José Currás introduced her doctoral thesis, on Cayetana and Celia, in January. The doc — which begins with a humble quote from Seventeenth-century scholar Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz: “Research to disregard much less” — lists all of the efforts of the Santiago de Compostela group. The researchers have analyzed the letters of the DNA of the ladies, the marks of their epigenome, the proteins produced with these genetic recipes and even the middleman molecules. The distinction between Cayetana and Celia has not appeared but. “Progressive osseous heteroplasia, on the mobile stage, behaves like most cancers. Right here the proliferation is of cells that produce bones, when they need to not,” explains Currás.
Physician Fred Kaplan found the illness in 1994 after finding out 125 sufferers with fibrodysplasia ossificans progressiva (or Stoneman syndrome), one other uncommon pathology during which muscle turns to bone. Kaplan, from the College of Pennsylvania, famous that among the affected folks didn’t have the standard signs, comparable to a attribute congenital malformation of the massive toes, and described a brand new illness, with its personal peculiarities. The American physician has his personal speculation: “I imagine that the twins share the identical mutation, however essentially the most affected sister in all probability had a second mutation very early within the growth of the embryo, within the GNAS gene itself or in one other that interacts with it.”
Chemist David Liu from Harvard College is a global authority within the research of uncommon illnesses of genetic origin. Liu additionally suggests the existence of “one other disturbing issue” in Cayetana, both a second spontaneous mutation or a distinction in gene regulation. “These modulatory elements could be very troublesome to search out. It’s unlikely that the docs have been capable of determine and rule out all doable genetic and epigenetic variations between the twins,” he advised EL PAÍS.
Antonio Salas suspects that the answer to the enigma lies in epigenetics, however he doesn’t rule out the second mutation speculation. “It’s a risk, however it’s not my favourite wager. That will be like profitable the lottery twice,” he explains. His colleague Sara Pischedda, an Italian biologist, explains that the group has already appeared for these epigenetic variations within the blood of the twins. “The end result was that the ladies are the identical,” she says. The following step is to search for variations in different tissues, comparable to Cayetana’s calcified pores and skin, muscle tissues and bones. “There’s a complete world, and we’re in all probability at the start,” warns Pischedda.
Loló Suárez and Eduardo Agraso proceed to hope, however they don’t deceive themselves. The amputations haven’t stopped their daughter’s sickness. The muscle tissues in her physique proceed to show into bone. “We’re reasonable about the truth that one thing won’t be achieved in time to assist Cayetana, however we’ll be glad if all this cash and the hassle we now have made may also help every other baby,” says Suárez. “I’d even be the happiest mom on this planet, even when it doesn’t come for my daughter.”
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