Kat - And now, itís time for our Gene of the Month - and this time itís Toddler. Officially known as Apela, Toddler is a new addition to the genetic canon, having only been discovered earlier this year. It was identified in zebrafish, and plays a vital role in very early development, promoting the movement of cells as a fish embryo transforms from a tiny football of cells into a more folded structure with a head and tail. Without Toddler, cells move sluggishly, resulting in embryos with small hearts or no heart at all.
Researchers had thought they were aware of pretty much all the genes involved in early development, so Toddlerís appearance was a surprise. It had gone under the radar for so long as the protein encoded by the gene is very small, and scientists simply hadnít noticed it. Itís possible that there may be a wealth of other tiny genes running around out there, waiting to be discovered.