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Role of microRNA identified in breast cancer

COLUMBUS, Ohio Scientists mining vast, largely unexplored regions of the human genome have identified a small handful of mini-molecules that play a major role in the development of cancer and perhaps many other diseases.

This newly identified set of molecules is called microRNA (miRNA), a collection of hundreds of snippets of non-coding RNA typically no more than 22 nucleotides in length that may comprise a master network controlling genes and protein production throughout the body, according to scientists in Ohio State University's Comprehensive Cancer Center.

The researchers were the first to define how miRNA malfunctions in some forms of leukemia and lymphoma, and now have discovered how it works in breast cancer. More importantly, they say the miRNA "signature" in breast cancer is directly linked to several biological features that physicians routinely use to diagnose and appropriately treat the disease.

The findings appear in the Aug. 15 issue of Cancer Research.

"MiRNA is opening up a whole new way of understanding carcinogenesis," says Carlo Croce, professor and chair of the department of molecular virology, immunology and medical genetics at Ohio State and the senior author of the study.

Traditional science holds that a specific stretch of DNA, or gene, encodes a sequence of messenger RNA that in turn creates instructions for the cell to make a particular protein. Cancer arises when there are mutations, deletions or other alterations in that initiating gene.

But what governs the entire process? A growing number of researchers like Croce believe that miRNA may play a major role. In contrast to regular RNA, miRNA does not code for protein production. Instead, it causes the destruction of coding RNA directly, or garbles its translational activity so proper protein production cannot take place.

MiRNA was first discovered almost 15 years ago in studies of roundworms, and since then, it has been fou
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Contact: Michelle Gailiun
Gailiun.1@osu.edu
614-293-3737
Ohio State University
15-Aug-2005


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