Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Silenced Genes As Warning Sign Of Blood Cancer

Date:
August 5, 2009
Source:
Helmholtz Association of German Research Centres
Summary:
In the genetic material of cancer cells, important growth inhibitors are often switched off by chemical labels in the DNA. How this happens has now been investigated. Scientists discovered in mice that cancer-typical DNA labeling occurs long before the first symptoms of leukemia appear. A test for the genetic label might therefore help to detect a developing cancer at an early point.

In many types of cancer, parts of the genetic material of tumor cells are switched off by chemical labels called methyl groups. This kind of methyl labeling ranges among the epigenetic changes that do not change the sequence of DNA building blocks. Such labels are found particularly often in genes which act as important inhibitors of pathogenic cell growth.

Related Articles


Cancer researchers do not know why healthy cells and cancer cells differ in their methylation patterns and why it is particularly the cancer inhibitors that are frequently switched off. The study of these questions is a very promising area of research, because there are drugs available that can prevent the attachment of methyl groups or other epigenetic changes and, thus, at least delay the onset of cancer.

Professor Dr. Christoph Plass at the German Cancer Research Center (Deutsches Krebsforschungszentrum, DKFZ) has investigated, jointly with colleagues from the Ohio State University in Columbus, U.S.A., the processes leading to the different methyl labels in cancer cells. A key question is when the first labels occur in the development of cancer. In their recently published study the investigators used mice affected by chronic lymphocytic leukemia as a model for studying the disease.

The researchers investigated the genetic material of these mice at regular intervals from birth. They discovered first cancer-typical methylation patterns in mice that were only three months old. This means that deviations in methylation occur long before the first signs of disease appear. These were not observed before the animals were thirteen months old. Moreover, the researchers were able to show that methylation patterns in murine DNA are largely corresponding to those found in humans suffering from leukemia. This confirms that the mouse model is suitable for studying the disease.

"Since first deviations in methylation occur so early in mice, we should find out whether this is also true for humans. If so, an early methylation test in high-risk individuals could provide clues about a developing cancer," Christoph Plass says. In this case, preventive medical intervention might be possible. Drugs preventing methyl group attachment might delay the onset of cancer. First clinical studies have already been started to check this. "This is probably most effective in a very early phase of methylation," Plass explains. The researchers believe that the first chemically deactivated genes trigger whole cascades of changes in the genetic material which can hardly be controlled at a later stage.

Epigenetics

The cells of the roughly 200 different tissues of the human body can fulfill their special tasks only by regulating the activity of their respective genes very specifically. Although every single gene is equipped with its own control elements, this is not enough for complex coordination. There is a second code that serves as an additional control level. In addition to the genetic switches that are directly integrated in the genetic material, the DNA, genes can also be switched on or off by chemical labeling of the DNA or the DNA packaging proteins. The most common of such epigenetic mutations is the attachment of methyl groups. The effect of these small chemical compounds is that a gene can no longer be read and translated into proteins.

Unlike genetic mutations, which permanently change the sequence of the DNA building blocks, all epigenetic mutations are reversible and, therefore, potential target structures of appropriate drugs.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Helmholtz Association of German Research Centres. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Shih-Shih Chen, Aparna Raval, Amy J. Johnson, Erin Hertlein, Te-Hui Liu, Victor X. Jin, Mara Sherman, Shu-Jun Liu, David W. Dawson, Katie E. Williams, Mark Lanasa, Sandya Liyanarachchi, Thomas S. Lin, Guido Marcucci, Yuri Pekarsky, Ramana Davuluri, Carlo M. Croce, Denis C. Guttridge, Michael A. Teitell, John C. Byrd,, and Christoph Plass. Epigenetic changes during disease progression in a murine model of human chronic lymphocytic leukemia. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, DOI: 10.1073/pnas.0906455106

Cite This Page:

Helmholtz Association of German Research Centres. "Silenced Genes As Warning Sign Of Blood Cancer." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 5 August 2009. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/08/090804132745.htm>.
Helmholtz Association of German Research Centres. (2009, August 5). Silenced Genes As Warning Sign Of Blood Cancer. ScienceDaily. Retrieved December 20, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/08/090804132745.htm
Helmholtz Association of German Research Centres. "Silenced Genes As Warning Sign Of Blood Cancer." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/08/090804132745.htm (accessed December 20, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Health & Medicine News

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

The Best Tips to Curb Holiday Carbs

The Best Tips to Curb Holiday Carbs

Buzz60 (Dec. 19, 2014) It's hard to resist those delicious but fattening carbs we all crave during the winter months, but there are some ways to stay satisfied without consuming the extra calories. Vanessa Freeman (@VanessaFreeTV) has the details. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com
Sierra Leone Bikers Spread the Message to Fight Ebola

Sierra Leone Bikers Spread the Message to Fight Ebola

AFP (Dec. 19, 2014) More than 100 motorcyclists hit the road to spread awareness messages about Ebola. Nearly 7,000 people have now died from the virus, almost all of them in west Africa, according to the World Health Organization. Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Researchers Test Colombian Village With High Alzheimer's Rates

Researchers Test Colombian Village With High Alzheimer's Rates

AFP (Dec. 19, 2014) In Yarumal, a village in N. Colombia, Alzheimer's has ravaged a disproportionately large number of families. A genetic "curse" that may pave the way for research on how to treat the disease that claims a new victim every four seconds. Duration: 02:42 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Double-Amputee Becomes First To Move Two Prosthetic Arms With His Mind

Double-Amputee Becomes First To Move Two Prosthetic Arms With His Mind

Buzz60 (Dec. 19, 2014) A double-amputee makes history by becoming the first person to wear and operate two prosthetic arms using only his mind. Jen Markham has the story. Video provided by Buzz60
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:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

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