Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Silenced genes as a warning sign of blood cancer

06.08.2009
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.

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.

Keyword: 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.

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, USA, 2009, DOI: 10.1073/pnas.0906455106

The German Cancer Research Center (Deutsches Krebsforschungszentrum, DKFZ) is the largest biomedical research institute in Germany and is a member of the Helmholtz Association of National Research Centers. More than 2,000 staff members, including 850 scientists, are investigating the mechanisms of cancer and are working to identify cancer risk factors. They provide the foundations for developing novel approaches in the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of cancer. In addition, the staff of the Cancer Information Service (KID) offers information about the widespread disease of cancer for patients, their families, and the general public. The Center is funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (90%) and the State of Baden-Württemberg (10%).

Dr. Sibylle Kohlstaedt | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.dkfz.de

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht How brains surrender to sleep
23.06.2017 | IMP - Forschungsinstitut für Molekulare Pathologie GmbH

nachricht A new technique isolates neuronal activity during memory consolidation
22.06.2017 | Spanish National Research Council (CSIC)

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Can we see monkeys from space? Emerging technologies to map biodiversity

An international team of scientists has proposed a new multi-disciplinary approach in which an array of new technologies will allow us to map biodiversity and the risks that wildlife is facing at the scale of whole landscapes. The findings are published in Nature Ecology and Evolution. This international research is led by the Kunming Institute of Zoology from China, University of East Anglia, University of Leicester and the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research.

Using a combination of satellite and ground data, the team proposes that it is now possible to map biodiversity with an accuracy that has not been previously...

Im Focus: Climate satellite: Tracking methane with robust laser technology

Heatwaves in the Arctic, longer periods of vegetation in Europe, severe floods in West Africa – starting in 2021, scientists want to explore the emissions of the greenhouse gas methane with the German-French satellite MERLIN. This is made possible by a new robust laser system of the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT in Aachen, which achieves unprecedented measurement accuracy.

Methane is primarily the result of the decomposition of organic matter. The gas has a 25 times greater warming potential than carbon dioxide, but is not as...

Im Focus: How protons move through a fuel cell

Hydrogen is regarded as the energy source of the future: It is produced with solar power and can be used to generate heat and electricity in fuel cells. Empa researchers have now succeeded in decoding the movement of hydrogen ions in crystals – a key step towards more efficient energy conversion in the hydrogen industry of tomorrow.

As charge carriers, electrons and ions play the leading role in electrochemical energy storage devices and converters such as batteries and fuel cells. Proton...

Im Focus: A unique data centre for cosmological simulations

Scientists from the Excellence Cluster Universe at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich have establised "Cosmowebportal", a unique data centre for cosmological simulations located at the Leibniz Supercomputing Centre (LRZ) of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences. The complete results of a series of large hydrodynamical cosmological simulations are available, with data volumes typically exceeding several hundred terabytes. Scientists worldwide can interactively explore these complex simulations via a web interface and directly access the results.

With current telescopes, scientists can observe our Universe’s galaxies and galaxy clusters and their distribution along an invisible cosmic web. From the...

Im Focus: Scientists develop molecular thermometer for contactless measurement using infrared light

Temperature measurements possible even on the smallest scale / Molecular ruby for use in material sciences, biology, and medicine

Chemists at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) in cooperation with researchers of the German Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing (BAM)...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Plants are networkers

19.06.2017 | Event News

Digital Survival Training for Executives

13.06.2017 | Event News

Global Learning Council Summit 2017

13.06.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Quantum thermometer or optical refrigerator?

23.06.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

A 100-year-old physics problem has been solved at EPFL

23.06.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Equipping form with function

23.06.2017 | Information Technology

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>