Sonic Hedgehog: The Gene Responsible for the Human Structure

    Sonic the Hedgehog is a famous movie loved by both adults and kids across the globe. Thinking of the name as part of a gene inside your body probably might have never crossed your mind. The fact that scientists named it after a fiction animal character known for its extreme speed is surprising. The gene is located in chromosome 7 in the human body, having a length of 12,288 bases.

    The Sonic Hedgehog gene gives instructions to the cell DNA to manufacture the Sonic Hedgehog protein. The protein is a center for chemical signals that are vital for the growth of an embryo. Its role is to ensure cell specialization and normal patterning of the body. It’s involved in the development of the brain, the central nervous system, eyes and the limbs, among other parts of the body. 

    The protein establishes the midline, a line separating the right side from the left side of the brain. Together with other signaling proteins, they are crucial materials involved in forming the right and left hemispheres of the brain. It also establishes the midline of the ventral brain surface. With all the separations it does, it also separates the eye into two distinct by splitting the eye field, formed during early developments of the eye, to two. 

    At the early stages of development, all protein signals are concentrated at the center of the embryo. As it gradually develops, the signaling proteins tend to move further away from the center to the ends. This increases their concentrations at the end, where the development of the legs, arms and head. This is a detailed form of the basic body layout consisting of the top, the bottom, the back, and the front.

    This gene enables the body to detect the positioning of various body cells. This is because of the composition of cells in the genes, which are of high concentration within the cell. The slightest form of deflection by the cell causes the activation of the Sonic Hedgehog gene. If it fails in its line of duty, then your body cells might end up distorted without any notice and effective action taken.

    Scientists have tried but failed to mutate the gene. This is because of the gene’s introduction to an embryo that isn’t adapted to it, causes it to die due to the formation of a messy structure and those that survive to end up having deformities. This knowledge of the gene has left many to wonder how the structure of the human body is prone to distortion by a simple gene mistake.