BioQuakes

AP Biology class blog for discussing current research in Biology

Tag: Cancer (Page 3 of 3)

Cancer Prevention, at the supermarket

Cancer Prevention, starting at the super market

In a recent Fox News article, an analysis was done on ten different foods and their health benefits. Remarkably, each of these common foods were found to help not only one’s general health, but also can lower the chances of getting many different forms of cancer.

#1) Red Peppers

These spicy vegetables are packed with capsaicin. This amide is what gives the pepper heat and also can be a great pain reliever. Yet, the capsaicin found in the peppers can also have cancer prevention benefits due to their ability to inhibit harmful nitrosamines.

#2) Avocado

A very common ingrediant in many dishes, avacado can have many health benefits. Filled with antioxidants called glutathione, eating some avacado can boost your immune system and its ability to protect against invading pathogens. In fact, glutathione has been called “the mother for all antioxidants” for its ability to help prevent a number of diseases, including cancer.

#3) Carrots

Rich in beta-carotene, carrots can help reduce risk of getting a number of cancers including lung, prostate and breast cancer.

#4) Flax Seeds

Loaded with antioxidants these cheap and good tasting seeds can be found in every super market.They are high in omega-3 fatty acids which can reduce one’s risk of being infected with breast and colon cancer.

#5) Onions

Onions can be power houses of immune system benefits. All onions are made up of allium compounds which can help protect against  many carcinogens associated with cancer. The allium can strength cells ability to keep cancer cells out and can slow down or even prevent the development of tumors.

#6) Green Tea

This easy to buy tea is known to help block almost every cancer there is, ranging from colon to breast cancer. Green tea is especially healthy as it full of polyphenols that have many of the benefits of antioxidants. Polyphenols have amazing traits such as being able to cut off blog supply to tumors and in turn help in their destruction.

#7) Licorice Root

While licorice candy does not have the same benefits, the root itself is filled with glycyrrhizin. This chemical can block many of the negative effects of testosterone and overall can deter the development of cancers affected by the hormone.

#8) Rosemary

This common herb is found in almost every kitchen and food store in the country. Not only can rosemary spice up food, it also has be proven to help prevent both breast and skin cancers when consumed regularly.

#9) Seaweed

Seaweed may not seem like the most appetizing of all these cancer fighting agents, but it is a more common ingredient than you think. In fact, if you have ever eaten sushi, seaweed has been on your plate more times than not. Filled with beta-carotene, protein, vitamin B12, fiber, and chlorophyll, seaweed contains many fatty acids which can prevent breast cancer in both males and females.

#10) Turmeric

Turmeric is a common find in any produce section. It is loaded with many anti-inflamatories which can slow down the production of enzymes in your body connected to colon cancer.

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Thanks for reading. The next time you are in the produce section of the supermarket, do forget to pick up a few of these ingredients, it can only help you.

How the “guardian of the genome” falls:

 

 

 

p53 is a protein that plays a vital role in the G2 checkpoint phase before mitosis begins. This checkpoint “ serves to prevent the cell from entering mitosis (M-phase) with genomic DNA damage.” (http://www.cellsignal.com/reference/pathway/Cell_Cycle_G2M_DNA.html) The role of p53 is to trigger repair for damaged DNA if possible and to hold the cell in the G1/S checkpoint until it is repaired and if the repair of the DNA is not possible p53 triggers apoptosis. Therefore, p53 plays a large role is preventing cancer because a cancerous cell starts with a mutation in DNA.  However mutant p53 allows cells who have DNA damage and have “tranformed” to be cancerous to enter into M-phase and proliferate thus forming a tumor.

Biologists, chemists and computer scientists at UC bolder however have discovered a “an elusive binging pocket” in the quaternary structure of p53 which is open “5 percent of the time.” (http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/01/130131121312.htm) The reason the pocket is only open 5 percent of the time is because the p53 protein undulates, meaning it sways so this pocket was hard to find and target. Their team then screened almost 2,500 molecules and tested out 45 molecules to see if any of them could fit into this pocket and trigger the normal tumor-suppressing abilities found in p53 in a mutated p53 molecule. They found that stictic acid fit and triggered the tumor-suppressing abilities. Although stictic acid is not able to be used as a drug, they can now scan other molecules that have similar properties as stictic acid making this a large step in cancer research because mutated p53 is found in over 40 percent of diagnosed cancer cases. (http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/01/130131121312.htm)

 

Sources:

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/01/130131121312.htm

http://www.cellsignal.com/reference/pathway/Cell_Cycle_G2M_DNA.html

Cancer and Fruit Flies

 

 

Photo by Malcolm NQ from Flickr

A recent study has found a way to track each step of a healthy cell as it becomes cancerous. Researchers were able to study the “genes and molecules involved in each step.”

The researchers provoked genomic instability in the cells of the fruit fly’s wing, or the Drosophila melanogaster, and allowed these cells to withstand the organism’s natural defenses. The scientists were able to see the cancer spreading throughout the cell and invading nearby organelles and cell structures. According to one scientist, Andres Dekanty, “for the first time we have a genetic model that allows us to understand the events that take place, starting from when cells begin to accumulate genomic errors until the development of a tumor.”

Furthermore, the researchers at the Institute for Research in Biomedicine believe that their research will be important for determining if cancer is caused by genomic instability. If this proves to be true, scientists and doctors will have a specific target to study, and to treat.

Researchers believe that the key to curing caner is identifying the difference between normal, healthy cells and a cell with genomic instability. Dekanty hopes that since “there isn’t a treatment available that attacks only the cells with genomic instability, if we can clearly differentiate one from the other, we’ll hopefully be able to find drugs that target them specifically.”

This study is of major importance because today, cancer treatments, such as chemotherapy have many side effects because they aim to stop cell division in both infected and healthy cells.  New, more precise treatments could stem out of this study.

Genome Project Helps Connect Ethnicity to Diseases

Though people from all over the globe share over 99% of the same DNA, there are subtle differences that make us all individuals

Scientists at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis have started the “1,000 Genomes Project” in which they will decode the genomes of 1,000 people from all over the world in hopes of finding genetic roots of both rare and common diseases worldwide. On October 31st, the results of DNA variations on people from 14 different ethnic groups were published, but the scientists hope for the project to expand to involve 2,500 people from 26 different world populations. According to Doctor Elaine Mardis, co-director of the Genome Institution at Washington University, “[scientists] estimate that each person carries up to several hundred rare DNA variants that could potentially contribute to disease. Now, scientists can investigate how detrimental particular rare variants are in different ethnic groups.”

 

We are One

Everyone on earth share 99% of the same DNA. That means you, your best friend, your mortal enemy, your boyfriend/girlfriend, next door neighbor, and The President of the United States all share 99% of your DNA. However, there are rare variants that occur with a frequency of less than 1% in a population that are thought to contribute to both rare diseases and common conditions (i.e cancer, diabetes). The rare variants explain why some medications do not effect certain people or cause nasty side effects (i.e insomnia, vomiting, and even death).

 

The goal of the “1,000 Genomes Project” is to identify rare variants across different populations. In the pilot phase of the program, researchers found that most rare variants different from one population to another, and the current study supports this theory.

 

The Study

Researches tested genomes from populations from the Han Chinese in Beijing (and the Southern Han Chinese in China) to Utah Residents with ancestry from Europe to the Toscani people of Italy to the Colombians in Columbia. Participants submitted an anonymous DNA sample and agreed to have their genetic material on an online database. Researchers than sequenced the entire genome of each individual in the study five times. However, decoding the entire genome only detects common DNA changes. In order to find the rare variants, researchers sequences small portions of the genomes about 80 times to look for single letter changes in the DNA called Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms, or SNPs.

 

The Results and Importance

The Study concluded that rare variants vary from one population to another. Researchers found a total of 38 million SNPs, including 99% of the rare variants in the participants’ DNA. In addition, researchers found 1.4 million small sections of insertions or deletions and 14,000 large sections of DNA deletion. The “1,000 Genomes Project” is incredibly important in medical science. It now allows researchers to study diseases, such as cancer, in specific ethnic groups. I personally think this project in incredibly important. As an Ashkenazi Jew from Eastern Europe, my family has a medical history of certain cancers and diseases. With the results of the “1,000 Genome Project,” researches could potentially find out why, and maybe even find a cure for some of these diseases.

Do blind mole rats hold the cure for cancer?

Approximately 23% of humans die from cancer, whereas blind mole rats are practically immune to this devastating disease.

Recently at the University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio, a study was made on blind mole rats and their peculiar avoidance of contracting cancer. This study looked specifically on a type of cell destruction known as necrosis, where a chemical called interferon-beta which is used to fight viruses caused the cells of these blind mole rats to violently burst open and die.

These blind mole rats aren’t the only ones that have developed methods of fighting caner. Naked mole rats, another long living subterranean relative of the guinea pig, used a cell-death program that turns on when the cell gets overcrowded. Biologists have thought for years that blind mole rats probably did the same thing until they dug a little deeper.

Apoptosis is the form of cell destruction that we are all familiar with where the cell self-destructs from the inside. Because of their low-oxygen environments, blind mole rats have developed a mutation in a cancer-fighting protein called p53. This prevents the cells from performing apoptosis, where it would be life-threatening considering their environment. This caused the mole rats to develop another method in order to fight cancerous tumors.

Necrosis is normally very dangerous and damage healthy tissues when killing tumors while also causing inflammation, but in this case, the mole rat stays perfectly healthy. What causes this? These scientists are currently trying to find out what triggers the release of the chemical, how it doesn’t harm the mole rats healthy cells, and how necrosis in these cells don’t cause any inflammation at all.

This discovery is very interesting and can be very useful in the quest to find a cure for cancer in the future. If we continue to look at the different ways in which these rodents fight cancer, we can hopefully adapt some of their ways to cancer in humans which can change history.

Magnets: Fun Toy or Deadly Tool?

Taken by: USCPSC

Cancer is one of the most well known diseases, yet it is one of the hardest to treat. The research of different treatments for cancer is ongoing and innovative. According to a recent study in South Korea magnets may be the next step in cancer treatment. A way for magnets to assist the body in targeting and killing off cancer cells has been discovered and is being researched and developed.

A problem with current cancer treatments like chemotherapy or radiation therapy is that they can only be targeted to a certain extent. With this experimental form of cancer treatment, using magnets, the body’s natural functions are used to kill the cells in a tumor. The human body naturally goes through a process called apoptosis, or the process of programed cell death. Apoptosis is used by the body when it is first developing allowing fingers and toes to grow individually, and it is used daily to kill off skin cells that have been damaged by weather. The researchers in South Korea are using this process to target and kill off the cancer cells.

The researchers applied zinc-doped iron oxide nanoparticles to colon cancer cells. This allows for the cells to naturally bind with antibodies, which then bind to the death receptors on the cancer cells. The researchers then applied a magnetic field, which caused  the death receptors to send out a signal telling the system to attack the cell. When this occurs chemicals are sent out and the cells of the tumor that had zinc-doped iron oxide nanoparticles on them were killed.

Sadly this innovative new cancer fighting technique has its downsides. In their experiments only half the exposed cells were killed although none of the cells they weren’t targeting were harmed. And when this method was tested on zebra fish some grew abnormal tails, which means that this method may be innovative but it still has plenty of testing to go through before it will be used on humans.

New Cancer Study that uses HeLa Cells

Credit Nick 960

A study at Loyola University Chicago Strich School of Medicine has discovered the role of a protein that aids in cancer metastasis, enabling 23 types of cancers (including breast, lung, pancreas, and thyroid) to spread to other parts of the body.  The protein CXCR4 functions in a complex signaling pathway that signals cancer cells to land at new sites and start new tumors.

Through the use of HeLa cells, medical researchers at Loyola University are better understanding the role of CXCR4, and by inhibiting this protein they hope to prevent the cancer from metastasizing.

Scientists hope to develop a drug in the near future that blogs CXCR4, and quickly bring it into testing on animals.  If the drug appears successful, it be tested in a clinical trial of cancer patients.

As Adriano Marchese, PhD at Loyola University states, “”We are laying the groundwork for the development of new drugs to stop cancer from spreading.”

For more information on the research studies being conducted at Loyola, visit the site: http://loyolahealth.org/

Viruses: Good or Bad?

As we recently learned in class, scientists are attempting to use viruses to treat cancer and according to this article, scientists are inching closer and closer to success. The idea to use viruses to treat cancer stems from the discovery that when sick with a virus, cancer patients tended to go into remission.

Even though cancer cells can replicate quickly, they can’t defend against attacks as well as regular cells can. Thus the search is on for a virus that won’t damage normal cells but will attack cancer cells.  Many viruses were tried, for example, the “cat plague”  which was inserted into rural cats, and in most cases failed due to the return of the cancer or the development of a deadly infection.

However, in the 1990s, various steps were made by a few doctors that allowed this research to progress. First, in 1991, Dr. Martuza of Harvard Medical School  attempted using the HSV (herpes simplex virus) type 1 as a cancer fighter. He modified the virus by taking certain genes out and then injected the modified virus into mice with brain cancer. The mice first went into remission and then unfortunately died. Around the same time, Dr. Bernard Roizman of the University of Chicago found a master gene in the herpes virus that when removed could only slow tumor growth and could no longer overpower healthy cells. In 1996, Dr. Ian Mohr in NYU altered the crippled virus even more and attacked cancer cells with it until a mutant of the virus evolved and was able to replicate in those cells. Dr. Mohr and a student then made it so that the virus didn’t attack the immune system.

There are some great benefits using viruses to attack cancer. Viruses not only attack the cancer, but get stronger over time, unlike chemotherapy. They also produce an immune response that helps to attack the virus. The side effects of this viral treatment are less detrimental than those of chemotherapy . These side effects include nausea, fatigue, and aches.

Most recently, an engineered form of vaccinia by the name of  JX-594  is being tested against liver cancer and has already helped in doubling the survival rate of patients with this cancer. Though there are still hurdles to overcome, it is clear that great progress has been made thus far.

Do You Really Want that Third Piece of Bacon?

This is a picture of a hamburger, which is a form of red meat often consumed by individuals everywhere. Found on Wikimedia Commons.

How many  people do you know that eat bacon every day?

What about a hamburger?

Did you know that the Harvard School of Public Health has recently discovered that red meat consumption can strongly contribute to cardiovascular disease and cancer, ending one’s life prematurely? These days, it is much healthier to eat “poultry, nuts, fish and legumes.” We need alternative sources of protein.

According to Nutrition researcher and author An Pan, who works at the Harvard School of Public Health,

“…eating high amounts of red meat has been associated with type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease, stroke and certain cancers in other studies.”

It is scary to think that every time someone consumes red meat daily, there is a 13% increased chance of death. Eating processed meat is even worse because if eaten daily, there is a 20% increased chance of death. Every time someone consumes heme iron, carcinogens that are released from the meat during cooking, saturated fat, sodium and nitrates from his or her steak, these risk percentages rise. It has been researched that these risks can be weighted more heavily depending on “age, body mass index, family history of heart disease or major cancers.”

Now, we know that the protein replacements of fish (7%), poultry (14%), nuts (19%), legumes (10%), low-fat dairy products (10%) and whole grain (14%) have great percentages for lower risks of premature death. If people “eat less than 0.5 serving per day of red meat, 9.3% of deaths in men and 7.6% of deaths in women can be prevented.”

Mortality is an important factor for every individual to consider. Why waste life away to eat a slice of bacon each morning?

 

 

New Ways to Combat Cancer

Rights Glucose Biomass Conversion

Rights Glucose Biomass Conversion

What if I told you that one of the newest cancer treatment research methods had to do with glucose?  Glucose is the basic unit practically all food is broken down into, and is used as an energy supply.  By preventing cancerous cells from accessing glucose, could we kill them off?

This idea is being extensively researched, as scientists have discovered that whereas normal cells use the form of the enzyme pyruvate kinase known as PKM1 to utilize glucose, cancer cells use PKM2.  Furthermore, studies have shown that PKM2 was inhibited by the presence of oxidants. In the presence of oxidants, PKM2 does not function properly, causing the cancerous cell to fail to be able to break down glucose into ATP through cellular respiration.  Without an energy source, cancerous cells would be unable to form metabolic functions, causing them to die before they divide and spread.

Pyruvate kinase is an enzyme involved in glycolysis, and catalyzes the transfer of a phosphate group from phosphoenolpyruvate (PEP) to ADP.  This process creates one molecule of pyruvate and one molecule of ATP.

For more information on this technique, check out this link: http://www.sciencemag.org/content/early/2011/11/02/science.1211485.abstract?sid=8fabf111-30ac-47a7-927c-1e7fdfaa600a

 

Also, for more information on PKM2, check out: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/PKM2 

Single Cell Sequencing

Rights James Beck, Duke University

Rights James Beck, Duke University

An emerging type of cancer treatment currently being extensively researched is single cell sequencing.  By sequencing the entire genome of individual cells in a primary tumor, researchers hope to find the origins of the cancer, and the exact method of how it spreads.  Often, it is not the primary tumor that proves to be the most deadly, as it is the metastasis of the cancer to other parts of the body that proves most difficult to treat.  By determining the exact cells that the cancer originates, scientists would be able to efficiently target these individual cells before they metastasize.

Just as antibiotics can fail to kill off the entire sickness, resulting in a more powerful, drug resistant strain, the same thing can occur with chemotherapy.  Current chemotherapy methods seek to target the tumor as a whole, and is not specialized to the specific cells within the tumor responsible for causing and spreading the cancer.  Through whole genome amplification, doctors could better access the cancerous cells within the tumor, by looking at the unique pattern of copy number variations, and provide individualized treatment.

This process, although relatively new, has proven to be extremely promising.  As data from volunteer patients continue to produce useful results, the technique of single cell sequencing will hopefully become industrialized in the near future.  Rather than amplifying individual cell’s genomes by hand, machines will perform this task through assembly lines, making individualized cancer treatment widespread and hopefully bringing society one step closer to the end of this terrible disease.

For more information on this groundbreaking technique, visit: A method for amplifying DNA from single bacterial cells shows promise for complete genome sequencing

 

Single cell sequencing research is currently underway at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, as the lab’s state-of-the-art new sequencing machines allow these scientists to lead the way in this new type of cancer research.

Getting closer to a cure for cancer!

Many cancer cells can be detected because the sugars on their surface proteins undergo specific changes from regular cells. The tumors produce a lot of the protein known as MUC1. Our immune systems have trouble recognizing the difference between these cancerous cells and the healthy cells because they both develop within the body.

Researchers have been testing a new vaccine on mice with cancers similar to the ones that develop on human cell. Luckily, the mice have been showing promising results and responding well to the vaccine! “This is the first time that a vaccine has been developed that trains the immune system to distinguish and kill cancer cells based on their different sugar structures on proteins such as MUC1,” Dr. Gendler says.  The MUC1 can be detected on 70% of all cancer cells. Can this really be the answer?!

It’s suppose to help with breast, pancreatic,  ovarian and multiple myeloma cancer. The vaccine will help the immune system recognize the MUC1 as a harmful foreigner. The vaccine has 3 parts. As we learned recently in our AP Biology class, the immune system attacks foreign cells with antibodies. Therefore the vaccine first has the immune system recognize the cells with MUC1 has harmful bacteria and then the immune system can send out the antibodies to fight off the cancer. Lastly, the  vaccine stimulates a response from a lymphocyte.

This vaccine should be ready by 2013 to improve cancer treatment! The vaccine would be life changing for many patients out there that experience triple – negative deadly cancers. I am looking forward to hearing more about this research and hearing the wonders its will do!

Could there be another reason?

From Chris Berwick's blog- White blood cells amongst red blood cells

Leukemia has always been a tough form of cancer to combat. It is the leading cancer found in children and can also be found in adults. Leukemia “is a cancer of the blood or bone marrow (which produces blood cells). A person who has leukemia suffers from an abnormal production of blood cells, generally leukocytes (white blood cells).”

In this specific case, long island doctor Steven Allen had a patient with cell leukemia. Cell leukemia is a rare form of leukemia and usually has fatal results within 6 months. Recently Dr. Allen’s patient died after just three months after she was diagnosed.

Cell leukemia is rarely treatable because most patients have a genetic mutation in a gene called KIT. This gene refutes any type of drug that is typically used on patients with leukemia. The phenomenon about Dr. Allen’s patient in particular case is that she did not have this genetic mutation on KIT, but her body still would not accept any drug, which resulted in her early death.

With her death came two discoveries that were ground breaking in the cure for leukemia. Researchers at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory have found two other gene mutations that refute the other drugs that have recently been studied as a cure for people with mast cell leukemia with a mutation on the gene KIT.

While Dr. Allen remains confident that this is going to change the direction of cures for leukemia, his colleague said “We must reallykeep in mind this was a single case study and we have to follow it up with many other studies.” These studies will help  “prove the mutations are present in other patients.”

What still confuses me is: if these mutations are the cause of mast cell leukemia, are there other mutations we have not yet discovered in all other forms of  cancer. If this be the case how do we know that the drugs we are using are not just a waste of time. Maybe it would be better for doctors to understand all gene mutations leading to each persons specific type of cancer before rushing into one form of treatment that has worked on others. Besides aren’t all humans different?

photo credit: angleys82

Sources: http://www.newsday.com/news/health/li-researchers-make-leukemia-discovery-1.3400035

http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/142595.php

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CD117

Aging, a side effect of preventing Cancer?

Nobody wants cancer and about 50 years ago scientists found the body’s natural defense against cancerous cells which was either to kill the cells or to turn them into senescent cells. But in a recent study by The Mayo Clinic researchers they found that if you destroy these senescent cells then the health of the mice improves as the mice get older such as longer lasting fat deposits which would cause wrinkles if they had gone and prolonged development of cataracts. The original mice they had tested had shorter life spans than normal mice so they have started to test normal life span mice to try and replicate the results. The only problem is that the method used to destroy the cells in the mice is not applicable to humans because it requires altering the cells so that any cell which turns into a senescent cell destroys itself. The scientists have gotten around this by saying that people could develop drugs to block anything produced from the senescent cells so that they won’t actually affect the rest of the body. The have already been approached by people who are interested in these results and who want to start development on these drugs. The scientists say this does not actually extend life but it does extend the healthy part of life.

Sharks kill cancer.

Sharks, thought of as being outwardly violent, are inwardly violent too. Sharks are generally resistant to viruses because of molecules their body have, especially a molecule named squalamine, discovered in 1993 from dogfish sharks. This molecule kills human viruses and can fight, kill, and prevent bacteria and cancer as well.  Squalamine can fight and treat a variety of cancers from the eye to the liver. Researchers believe this molecule can be a potential cure to HIV.

The way this molecule works relates to our current topic of study in AP Biology class. Squalamine sticks to cell membranes of various organs and blood vessels. By connecting with receptors on the cell, it prevents other proteins to be received by the receptor and enter the cell, proteins that allow viruses to survive.

This molecule is the reason sharks are so resilient towards various illnesses and can help humans become that way as well. It has been known that oils from their liver can be used as an anti-inflammatory and studies now show that one of their molecules can help cure liver diseases.  Shark oil is used in a very popular, over the counter anti-inflammatory medication used for arthritis, Chondroitin, that  contains shark cartilage. This discovery can help save millions of lives, but before you go and kill millions of sharks in the process, it might be a good idea to try to figure out a way to help humans and keep sharks safe, as well.

 

Link to article: 

http://www.livescience.com/16126-shark-molecule-kills-viruses.html

 

Text Away!!

Credit: samantha celera Flickr

Most of us worry, or at least acknowledge, that our beloved cell-phones may contribute to the forming of tumors. Fortunately, a recent study on the link between cell phone use and tumors found that there was actually no link!

The previous studies on cell-phones and tumors had been inconclusive and were prone to error. This new study, with probably some faults of its own, says that cell-phones do not contribute to the forming of tumors in the body. Danish scientists compared the cancer risk for all of the Danish cell-phone users, all 420,095 of them, from 1982 to 1995 and then compared it to the risk from 1996 to 2002, when more people had cell-phones. The study showed that there was not a link between cell-phones and tumors. They then extended the study to include cell-phone users from 2002 to 2007 with still not definitive link.

The researchers found that 10,729 people had tumors between 1990 and 2007. Using this number, they funneled it to just people who had been using cell-phones for more than 13 years. The rate of people with tumors was unrelated to whether or not they had a cell phone.

Unfortunately, the study did not focus on each person’s particular usage of their cell-phone or on people who have had cell-phones for more than 15 years. So, it’s probably best not to always be glued to the phone, but hey, one more text can’t hurt!

Can We Begin with a Moment of Silence?

In today’s world, there are more and more breaks in cancer research, and Dr. Sven Diederichs and his team are one more to add to the list.  Dr. Sven believes that “In many cancers we find that specific non- coding genes are particularly active. Therefore, we want to understand what the RNA molecules transcribed from these genes bring about in the tumor cells.”  Could this be the big answer? After all this time, could it be that it has been RNA molecules sending messages that create cancer.

Dr. Sven and his team came to this hypothesis and therefore created a method to find out the truth called “loss-of-function.”  In this experiment, scientists can silence a gene of a living cell and try to find changes in the cell’s behavior, metabolism, or physiology. They created this method on the use of zinc finger nucleases.

Once the scientist figured out how to make this method work, they were able to, for the first time, completely silence genes. Why is this important to cancer research? Dr. Sven believes that certain genes play a huge role in the development of cancer and are very active in tumor cells. If we have the chance to “shut down” these genes in RNA before they become active, we can ultimately prevent cancer.

In AP Biology class, we are learning about RNA transferring different kinds of information that stimulate cells to perform certain functions based on need, location and ability.  Are all these stimuli good? Or are they sending messages to create tumor cells?

We all know someone that has cancer, whether it’s your brother’s girlfriend’s uncle’s high school girlfriend, a friend of a friend, your best friend or it’s you. Everyone has a reason they want to get rid of such a terrible disease. So would you invest in this research or do you think its impossible to figure out which exact gene is the cause for all cancers?

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