Gene of the Month - Roundabout
And finally it's time for our gene of the month, and this time it's Roundabout. First discovered in fruit flies in the early 90s, Roundabout is responsible for making a molecule that helps to guide the growth of the long tails of nerve cells - called axons - in the developing embryo, enabling them to make the journey from one side of the fruit fly larva to the other. In animals with a faulty version of Roundabout, the nerve axons start heading out in a straight line, but double back on themselves and end up growing round in circles, just like a car driving round and round a roundabout.
Some human versions of Roundabout, known as Robo genes, and their receptors have been implicated in a process called angiogenesis - the way in which new blood vessels grow into a tumour - as well as other aspects of cancer growth. And there are even tentative links between variations in human Robo genes and dyslexia, or even psychopathy, but much more work is needed to figure out whether the link is real, or the scientists are just going round in circles.