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Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Scientists identify ‘junk’ DNA that can switch off cancer tumors

EARTHtimes.org: Recently, scientists at the University of Oxford have discovered that 'junk' genetic material can switch off cancer tumours, preventing them from growing.
Dr. Alexandre Akoulitchev at the university has found that it is possible to use large molecules of RNA to regulate the activity of a gene called dihydrofolate reductase (DHFR) which produces an enzyme that is responsible for the rapid spread of tumour.
Almost 34,000 genes are responsible for producing proteins according to the Human Genome Project. The rest are considered to be scrap. The DNA and the proteins they produce are connected through the RNA when the proteins are activated. Though not all RNA are directly involved in protein synthesis, about 500,000 varieties of RNA of unknown function have been estimated to be produced by 'junk' DNA.

The team at the University of Oxford has shown that certain RNA can be used to directly control the gene DHFR. When this gene is inhibited, the thymine—a chemical that is vital for the rapid division of cancer cells—supply is cut off.

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