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.
This news release is available on our World Wide Web home page at http://www.utsouthwestern.edu/home/news/index.html
To automatically receive news releases from UT Southwestern via e-mail, subscribe at www.utsouthwestern.edu/receivenews
Aline McKenzie | EurekAlert!
What happens in the cell nucleus after fertilization
06.12.2016 | Helmholtz Zentrum München - Deutsches Forschungszentrum für Gesundheit und Umwelt
Researchers uncover protein-based “cancer signature”
05.12.2016 | Universität Basel
In recent years, lasers with ultrashort pulses (USP) down to the femtosecond range have become established on an industrial scale. They could advance some applications with the much-lauded “cold ablation” – if that meant they would then achieve more throughput. A new generation of process engineering that will address this issue in particular will be discussed at the “4th UKP Workshop – Ultrafast Laser Technology” in April 2017.
Even back in the 1990s, scientists were comparing materials processing with nanosecond, picosecond and femtosesecond pulses. The result was surprising:...
Have you ever wondered how you see the world? Vision is about photons of light, which are packets of energy, interacting with the atoms or molecules in what...
A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.
Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...
In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.
“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...
The Max Planck Institute for Physics (MPP) is opening up a new research field. A workshop from November 21 - 22, 2016 will mark the start of activities for an innovative axion experiment. Axions are still only purely hypothetical particles. Their detection could solve two fundamental problems in particle physics: What dark matter consists of and why it has not yet been possible to directly observe a CP violation for the strong interaction.
The “MADMAX” project is the MPP’s commitment to axion research. Axions are so far only a theoretical prediction and are difficult to detect: on the one hand,...
16.11.2016 | Event News
01.11.2016 | Event News
14.10.2016 | Event News
06.12.2016 | Materials Sciences
06.12.2016 | Medical Engineering
06.12.2016 | Power and Electrical Engineering