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Genome editing used to slow cancer growth

30 May 2017

By Annabel Slater

Appeared in BioNews 902

US scientists have delayed cancer cell growth by using genome editing to remove a protein.

Removing an enzyme known as Tudor-SN delayed the replication of cells from human kidney and cervical cancers in the lab.

'We know that Tudor-SN is more abundant in cancer cells than healthy cells, and our study suggests that targeting this protein could inhibit fast-growing cancer cells,' said Dr Reyad Elbarbary of the University of Rochester, New York, and lead author.

Normal cells divide and replicate through the process known as the cell cycle. If the cycle is disrupted, cells can become cancerous and replicate uncontrollably, forming tumours.

One regulatory component of the cell cycle is micro RNA (miRNA) - small noncoding RNA molecules which adjust gene expression. The Rochester team showed that removing Tudor-SN through genome editing increased the amount of miRNA present. The miRNA reduced the expression of genes critical to the progression of the cell cycle from the 'preparatory' phase to the replication phase.

Although the research is at a very early stage, the team hope their findings could lead to a new treatment option for cancer. They next plan to investigate how Tudor-SN works with other molecules in the cell cycle, in order to develop drugs to target it.

'Because cancer cells have a faulty cell cycle, pursuing factors involved in the cell cycle is a promising avenue for cancer treatment,' said Professor Lynne Maquat of the University of Rochester, and senior author.

Dr Thomas Cox of the Garvan Institute of Medical Research, Australia, who was not involved in the study, told Cosmos magazine that targeting miRNA is difficult and technically challenging. 'This study is saying: "Well, if we can’t target microRNAs directly, can we target something regulating them?"'

The study was published in Science.


08 May 2017 - by Sarah Pritchard 
Aggressive human prostate and liver tumours have been shrunk in mice by targeting a ‘fused’ gene mutation using CRISPR/Cas9...
08 May 2017 - by Emma Laycock 
US scientists have used CRISPR gene-editing to remove HIV DNA from the genomes of living animals, eliminating further infection.
20 February 2017 - by Dr Rachel Huddart 
An influential advisory group has given cautious support to the idea of making heritable changes to the human genome in order to treat or prevent disease...
27 June 2016 - by Rachel Reeves 
The first in-human use of the genome-editing technology CRISPR has been approved by a US federal safety board...
11 May 2015 - by Dr Indrayani Ghangrekar & Ayala Ochert 
Molecular biologists have used gene-editing technology to identify promising targets for anti-cancer drugs...

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