Scientists are taking the first steps to find out how a gene that is mutated in many cancer cells functions in healthy cells.
The researchers hope that learning how this gene, called Rb, operates in health cells will give them a better idea of how cancer develops and progresses. While mutations in Rb, are linked to several types of cancer including the childhood disease retinoblastoma, Rb normally keeps cell division in check. That means Rb is a tumor suppressor gene, which keeps cells from growing out of control. Scientists believe that Rb is linked to two key processes that frequently malfunction when cancer begins – proliferation (cell growth), and apoptosis (cell death). But they dont know how Rb, which is found in every cell of the body, does this. New findings reported in the December 23 issue of Nature begin to shed light on the genes role in cells.
The researchers found that in mice, a lack of Rb during embryonic development kept red blood cells from fully maturing. "While we dont think this finding has a specific link to cancer development, it is a first step to getting at the basic mechanism of how Rb works," said Gustavo Leone, a study co-author and an assistant professor with the Human Cancer Genetics Program at Ohio State University. "Knowing how Rb works in normal cells could help us to someday understand how tumor-suppressor genes function in tumor development and growth."
Gustavo Leone | EurekAlert!
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