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Home News and Update Year 2010 Gene Silencing May Help in Fight Against Cancer

Gene Silencing May Help in Fight Against Cancer

Times of India
28 May 2010
New Delhi, India

Cells Need To Produce Correct Proteins To Stay Healthy
Curbs on CrabCurbs on Crab
In a major breakthrough, scientists now know exactly which part of a protein inside the human body interacts with the RNA to control the normal expression of genes including those that are active in cancer. RNA is a system within living cells that helps to control which genes are active and how active they are.

Human cells need to produce the correct proteins at the right time and in the appropriate quantities to stay healthy. One of the key means by which cells achieve this control is by RNA interference, a form of gene silencing where small pieces of RNA, called micro RNAs, obstruct the production of specific proteins by interacting with their genetic code. However, not any piece of RNA can do this.

Dr Bhushan Nagar in collaboration with Dr Nahum Sonenberg at McGill’s new Life Sciences Complex, used structural biology to unravel how a small segment in the Argonaute proteins, the key molecules of RNA interference, can select the correct micro RNAs. RNAs are the direct products of genes, and these small RNAs can bind to specific others and either increase or decrease their activity, for example by preventing a messenger RNA from producing a protein. RNA interference has an important role in defending cells against parasitic gene’s viruses as well as gene expression in general.

The latest research was published online on May 26 by the journal ‘Nature’. The team discovered that Argonaute proteins can potentially be exploited to enhance gene silencing. RNA interference could be used as a viable therapeutic approach for inhibiting specific genes that are aberrantly active in diseases such as cancer, Nagar said. “We now have a handle on being able to rationally modify micro RNAs to make them more efficient and possibly into therapeutic drugs,” he added.

While therapeutic applications are many years away, this new insight provides an avenue to specifically control the production of proteins, which in cancer cells for example, are abnormal.

“This is fantastic news,” said Dr David Thomas, chair of McGill’s department of biochemistry. “You’ve seen stories lately about how we may see the end of chemotherapy? Well, this is part of that path in developing genetically based therapies that can be tailored to individual patient’s particular illnesses.”

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