Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

New Way To Attack Some Forms Of Leukemia Discovered

Date:
October 31, 2008
Source:
Syracuse University
Summary:
What if a way could be found to reprogram cancerous cells back into normal cells? Researchers believes it may have found a way to do just that. Scientists discovered a way to disrupt the protein switch that is a critical component in the process to create white blood cells.

Each year, some 29,000 adults and 2,000 children are diagnosed with leukemia, a form of cancer that is caused by the abnormal production of white blood cells in the bone marrow. Current treatments rely primarily on killing the cancer cells, which also destroys normal cells. But what if a way could be found to reprogram cancerous cells back into normal cells? A team of Syracuse University researchers believes it may have found a way to do just that.

Led by Michael Cosgrove, assistant professor of biology in SU's College of Arts and Sciences, the team discovered a way to disrupt the protein switch that is a critical component in the process to create white blood cells. Its discoveries could lead to a more effective way to treat some forms of leukemia and revolutionize the approach to treating other forms of cancer.

"We believe our discovery is just the tip of the iceberg," Cosgrove says. "Our hope is that from the knowledge we have gained in understanding how these proteins work in normal cells, we will be able to find new ways to treat all types of leukemia. We also think the discoveries will have broad implications in treating other types of cancer."

To understand how white blood cells are produced, one must begin by looking at the genetic code, the DNA, which provides the blueprint for all the life processes that are carried out in cells throughout the body. All of the cells in the body begin as stem cells with the same DNA. If stretched out in one continuous strand, this genetic blueprint would be about two meters long (about six feet), yet cells somehow manage to compact this rather long DNA strand into its nucleus without tangling or disrupting the exact DNA sequence.

"It's sort of like stuffing 10,000 miles of spaghetti into a basketball without it tangling or breaking," Cosgrove says. What differentiates a liver cell from a blood cell is how that DNA is compacted or packaged in the cell nuclei, which results in different genes being expressed and leads to the production of specialized cells (white blood cells, liver cells, pancreatic cells, etc.). Proteins control this DNA packaging process.

Cosgrove's research team has spent the past three years studying one of the proteins that regulate the way DNA is packaged when white blood cells are formed. The protein is called the Mixed Lineage Leukemia (MLL) protein. In normal cells, the MLL protein, which contains 3,969 amino acids, combines with three other proteins to create a molecular switch that controls the DNA packaging events required for the formation of white blood cells. In some types of leukemia, the MLL switch is broken, which prevents white blood cells from maturing properly, resulting in a dangerous proliferation of immature white blood cells.

Cosgrove's team identified a tiny component of the MLL protein-a peptide sequence that contains just six amino acids-that is responsible for assembling the MLL molecular switch in normal cells. The team members called this peptide sequence the "Win" motif. They discovered that a synthetic version of this peptide acts like a drug that breaks apart the MLL molecular switch, interrupting a critical enzymatic process that is required to produce white blood cells. When used against an MLL molecular switch that is broken-working too fast-the peptide drug attacks the protein switch and breaks it apart, which may slow or stop the production of the abnormal white blood cells. This drug may help to reprogram the way DNA is packaged in leukemia cells and help convert the abnormal cells back into normal cells.

"Reprogramming the way DNA is packaged in cancerous cells is a new idea that has the potential to lead to better treatments with fewer side effects," Cosgrove says. "This last year has been fantastic. We have been learning something new about these proteins almost on a daily basis. Our hope is that as we continue to understand how these DNA packaging proteins work, we will find new ways to treat all types of leukemia as well as other diseases."

The research was recently published online in the Journal of Biological Chemistry of the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, and is forthcoming in the print edition.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Syracuse University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Syracuse University. "New Way To Attack Some Forms Of Leukemia Discovered." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 31 October 2008. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/10/081028184744.htm>.
Syracuse University. (2008, October 31). New Way To Attack Some Forms Of Leukemia Discovered. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 29, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/10/081028184744.htm
Syracuse University. "New Way To Attack Some Forms Of Leukemia Discovered." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/10/081028184744.htm (accessed July 29, 2014).

Share This




More Health & Medicine News

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Deadly Ebola Virus Threatens West Africa

Deadly Ebola Virus Threatens West Africa

AP (July 28, 2014) West African nations and international health organizations are working to contain the largest Ebola outbreak in history. It's one of the deadliest diseases known to man, but the CDC says it's unlikely to spread in the U.S. (July 28) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
$15B Deal on Vets' Health Care Reached

$15B Deal on Vets' Health Care Reached

AP (July 28, 2014) A bipartisan deal to improve veterans health care would authorize at least $15 billion in emergency spending to fix a veterans program scandalized by long patient wait times and falsified records. (July 28) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Two Americans Contract Ebola in Liberia

Two Americans Contract Ebola in Liberia

Reuters - US Online Video (July 28, 2014) Two American aid workers in Liberia test positive for Ebola while working to combat the deadliest outbreak of the virus ever. Linda So reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Traditional African Dishes Teach Healthy Eating

Traditional African Dishes Teach Healthy Eating

AP (July 28, 2014) Classes are being offered nationwide to encourage African Americans to learn about cooking fresh foods based on traditional African cuisine. The program is trying to combat obesity, heart disease and other ailments often linked to diet. (July 28) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins