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'Methyl magnet' genes can cause family cancer risk
Date:8/16/2011

e MLH1 gene were present in all three generations. This was intriguing since these markers are usually removed during the production of eggs and sperm," Dr Hitchins said.

"What we found was that a subtle change near the gene was acting like a magnet to attract methylation. So it was not the methylation itself that was being passed from parent to child, but rather the DNA change, and this acted as a methyl magnet," she said.

The methylation was cleared away in the sperm and eggs and then recreated in each new generation, the researchers said.

Professor Ward said the discovery pinpointed the cause of cancer in this family and it offered new options for genetic diagnosis, counselling and early interventions in other families at risk of hereditary cancers.

The team is also exploring the use of certain drugs to clear away the methylation in cancer to switch the anti-cancer genes back on again. In the future these drugs may be used to create a more targeted approach to cancer treatment and possibly prevention.


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Contact: Dr Megan Hitchens
m.hitchins@unsw.edu.au
61-293-851-431
University of New South Wales
Source:Eurekalert

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