Morse code is a simple, effective and clear method of communication and now scientists believe that cells in our body may also be using patterns of signals to switch genes on and off. The discovery may have major implications for the pharmaceutical industry as the signalling molecules that are targeted by drugs may have more than one purpose. The number of ‘dots and dashes’ being used by each signal could have different purposes, all of which could be modified by a drug.
The researchers, funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) and working at the Universities of Liverpool and Manchester and the Royal Liverpool Children’s Hospital, in collaboration with scientists at AstraZeneca and Pfizer, have studied transcription factors, the signalling molecules inside cells that activate or deactivate genes. They found that the strength of the signal is less important than the dynamic frequency pattern that is used.
Professor Michael White of the Centre for Cell Imaging at Liverpool and leader of the research group said, “The timing of the repeating signal is essential for its interpretation. It seems that cells may read the oscillations in level of transcription factors in a similar way to Morse code.”
Matt Goode | alfa
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