University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth) and Baylor College of Medicine biochemists have discovered a protein that can slow down or speed up the growth of brain tumors. The results come from a preclinical study that utilized Big Data analysis, the results of which could revolutionize the treatment of cancer.
Researchers managed to build a replication of a brain cancer mouse model and slow down the tumor growth by altering the conversion process of genes into proteins. “Our work could lead to the development of a novel therapeutic target that might slow down tumor progression,” said Eric Wagner, assistant professor in the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at the UTHealth Medical School.
During the study, the biochemists discovered a protein called CFIm25 that works in order to keep the messenger RNA long in healthy cells. On the contrary, whenever this protein reduces, there is a higher probability of tumor growth. The team worked in restoring the levels of this key protein, which proved crucial in reducing the growth of brain cancer.
“Understanding how messenger RNA length is regulated will allow researchers to begin to develop new strategies aimed at interfering with the process that causes unusual messenger RNA shortening during the formation of tumors,” Wagner said.
RNA molecules contain information inside genes and are used to create body tissues. It was already known that the messenger RNA molecules connected with cancerous cells were shorter than the ones linked with healthy cells. However, the reason behind the impact that the length of RNA had on cells becoming cancerous was not previously understood by investigators.
In fact, the biochemists emphasized the fact that this link to brain tumors was not previously known. “Its role in brain tumor progression was first found through big data computational analysis, then followed by animal-based testing. This is an unusual model for biomedical research, but is certainly more powerful, and may lead to the discovery of more drug targets,” explained We Li, an associate professor in the Dan L. Duncan Cancer Center and Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology at BCM. The next step will be to make further preclinical research before these findings can be examined in humans.
The study was led by Drs. Eric J. Wagner and Ann-Bin Shyu of The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston and Dr. Wei Li of Baylor College of Medicine and published in the Advance Online Publication of the journal Nature.
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