Meet the Researcher Who Discovered the FOP Gene

Posted April 23, 2016

M_Xu_gene.jpgMeiqi Xu was always interested in medical research and she desired to study and contribute her knowledge to curing human diseases. In early 1995, she came to the University of Pennsylvania for an interview with Dr. Eileen Shore and learned about the disease Fibrodysplasia Ossificans Progressiva (FOP) and the FOP Lab. When Meiqi joined the FOP Lab in February 1995, the team’s main goal was to find the genetic cause of FOP – the FOP gene. For the next twelve years and two months, almost one hundred percent of Meiqi’s time was spent searching for the FOP gene.

To help the team think about what genes might cause FOP, she read many articles Dr. Kaplan passed along about BMP signaling. Under the supervision of Dr. Shore, Meiqi and her colleagues worked on signaling pathways and linkage analysis to narrow down the region of the FOP gene. Leading up to discovering the FOP gene, she was focused on screening the DNA sequences of all FOP gene candidates and 54 other genes were analyzed and excluded. One day, Meiqi discovered the FOP mutation and identified the FOP gene – ACVR1. 

“It was simply amazing!” Meiqi exclaims. “Everyone in the lab had worked so hard for many, many, years so it was just a great feeling for me personally as well as for the team overall.” Although Meiqi’s greatest career feat to date is discovering the FOP gene, she continues to dream that her contributions in FOP research will lead to another breakthrough achievement.

The gene discovery was announced on April 23, 2006. Today Meiqi happily works in the FOP Lab striving to fulfill its mission to find a cure for FOP. She is working on several exciting projects such as understanding how mutations in FOP variants impact BMP signaling to better understand how the ACVR1 receptor works. Meiqi hopes her research will lead to drugs that will effectively treat people with both FOP classic and FOP variant cases.

The International FOP Association (IFOPA) along with our global community of individuals living with FOP and their families are thankful for Dr. Kaplan, Dr. Shore, Meiqi and all the researchers around the globe who have given so much of their time and talent to understand this very complex disease. All of us greatly appreciate every researcher who is working to find treatments and a cure for FOP, and we are forever grateful for Meiqi's contributions. 

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