Gallus Expression in Situ Hybridization Analysis (GEISHA): A Chicken Embryo Gene Expression Database

The chicken embryo develops similarly to a human embryo, and each contains about 20,000 genes. Researchers around the world are studying where and when these genes are used during embryo development in organisms such as chickens to increase their knowledge of how certain human birth defects, such as congenital heart defects, are set in motion. Information about when and where genes are used is spread across hundreds of thousands of research publications. This creates a huge problem for researchers looking for information about genes that might be involved in the processes leading to
birth defects. Fortunately, researchers led by Parker Antin, PhD, professor of cell biology and anatomy and UA Sarver
Heart Center member, recognized this problem, and 10 years ago developed a database available to scientists around the world to hold this information. Dr. Antin recently received a five-year $3.8 million NIH grant to advance this project—the Gallus Expression in Situ Hybridization Analysis (GEISHA).

“The amount of information that is vital to daily research is overwhelming, and we are becoming ever more reliant on biological databases to help us make sense of all of the data. Since congenital defects arise due to problems that occur as the embryo develops, obtaining and organizing information about when and where genes are used is crucially important. In some Parker Antin, PhD, manages international chicken embryo genetic database ways human development is like building a car—one part might go wrong and it will affect the whole system. Through genetic studies, we are learning the function of every gene and where it appears during the development process. We need to understand the normal state in order to work on defects,” says Dr. Antin.

He explains that congenital defects usually are genetic mutations, with heart defects being the most common. Some manifest over time; others genetically predispose a person to a disease. Dr. Antin adds, “We look at all the players in cells that could be a factor in disease. Which genes are active during blood vessel development? Which ones make heart cells versus nerve cells?” From here, it may be possible to develop therapeutic approaches to preventing congenital defects and human disease. Visit the GEISHA website for more information.

Dr. Antin’s research has been supported by seed grants from the William J. “Billy” Gieszl Endowed Award for Heart Research and the Michael Schneider Investigator Award for Pediatric Cardiovascular Disease Research.