They found that a tiny fragment of ribonucleic acid (RNA), a chemical cousin of DNA, prompts stem cells to mature into red blood cells. The researchers also created an artificial RNA inhibitor to block this process.
Such interventions, if fruitful in humans, might be useful against some cancers and other diseases, such as polycythemia vera, in which the body produces a life-threatening excess of blood cells. Conversely, a drug that boosts red blood cell production might be useful against anemia, blood loss or altitude sickness.
“The important finding is that this microRNA, miR-451, is a powerful natural regulator of red blood cell production,” said Dr. Eric Olson, chairman of molecular biology at UT Southwestern and senior author of the study, which appears in the Aug. 1 issue of Genes & Development.
“We also showed that a man-made miR-451 inhibitor can reduce miR-451 levels in a mouse and block blood-cell production. We hope that this inhibitor and similarly functioning molecules might lead to new drugs against the fatal disease polycythemia vera, which currently has no therapies,” said Dr. Olson, who directs the Nancy B. and Jake L. Hamon Center for Basic Research in Cancer and the Nearburg Family Center for Basic and Clinical Research in Pediatric Oncology.
Red blood cells, which carry oxygen throughout the body, are created in bone marrow from stem cells. The body steps up its production of red blood cells in response to stresses such as anemia, blood loss or low oxygen, but overproduction of the cells increases the risk of stroke and blood clots.
RNA molecules, found throughout cells, perform several jobs. MicroRNAs often bind to and disable other types of RNA, preventing them from carrying out their functions.
Dr. Olson and his colleagues study many different types of microRNAs to determine their functions and to find therapeutic uses of artificial microRNAs.
“miR-451 is found in great abundance in mature red blood cells, but its function was not known,” said lead author David Patrick, a graduate student in molecular biology.
In the new study, the scientists created genetically engineered mice that could not make miR-451. The mice had a lowered red blood cell count and also had difficulty creating more red blood cells under conditions that usually stimulate production.
miR-451 works by interacting with another RNA involved in producing a protein called 14-3-3-zeta, which plays a role in the maturation of many types of cells, the researchers found.
The team also treated blood stem cells with an artificial RNA designed to inhibit miR-451. As a result, the number of red blood cells decreased.
Dr. Olson and his colleagues are pursuing a patent on miR-451 inhibitors and studying whether a microRNA-based drug might be useful in treating several blood-related disorders.
Other UT Southwestern researchers involved in the study were Dr. Cheng Zhang, assistant professor of physiology and developmental biology; Xiaoxia Qi, research scientist in molecular biology; and Dr. Lily Jun-Shen Huang, assistant professor of cell biology. Researchers from Texas A&M Health Science Center, Houston; Texas Heart Institute, Houston; and the University of Houston also participated.
The study was funded by the National Institutes of Health, the Welch Foundation and the American Heart Association – Jon Holden DeHaan Foundation
Aline McKenzie | Newswise Science News
Fine organic particles in the atmosphere are more often solid glass beads than liquid oil droplets
21.04.2017 | Max-Planck-Institut für Chemie
Study overturns seminal research about the developing nervous system
21.04.2017 | University of California - Los Angeles Health Sciences
The nearby, giant radio galaxy M87 hosts a supermassive black hole (BH) and is well-known for its bright jet dominating the spectrum over ten orders of magnitude in frequency. Due to its proximity, jet prominence, and the large black hole mass, M87 is the best laboratory for investigating the formation, acceleration, and collimation of relativistic jets. A research team led by Silke Britzen from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany, has found strong indication for turbulent processes connecting the accretion disk and the jet of that galaxy providing insights into the longstanding problem of the origin of astrophysical jets.
Supermassive black holes form some of the most enigmatic phenomena in astrophysics. Their enormous energy output is supposed to be generated by the...
The probability to find a certain number of photons inside a laser pulse usually corresponds to a classical distribution of independent events, the so-called...
Microprocessors based on atomically thin materials hold the promise of the evolution of traditional processors as well as new applications in the field of flexible electronics. Now, a TU Wien research team led by Thomas Müller has made a breakthrough in this field as part of an ongoing research project.
Two-dimensional materials, or 2D materials for short, are extremely versatile, although – or often more precisely because – they are made up of just one or a...
Two researchers at Heidelberg University have developed a model system that enables a better understanding of the processes in a quantum-physical experiment...
Glaciers might seem rather inhospitable environments. However, they are home to a diverse and vibrant microbial community. It’s becoming increasingly clear that they play a bigger role in the carbon cycle than previously thought.
A new study, now published in the journal Nature Geoscience, shows how microbial communities in melting glaciers contribute to the Earth’s carbon cycle, a...
20.04.2017 | Event News
18.04.2017 | Event News
03.04.2017 | Event News
21.04.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
21.04.2017 | Health and Medicine
21.04.2017 | Physics and Astronomy