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Researchers design a tool to induce controlled suicide in human cells
Date:12/17/2009

When cells accumulate excessive errors in the proteins they produce, apoptosis is activated, that is to say, a cell suicide programme; however, beforehand the cells attempt to rectify the problem through a number of rescue responses. Scientists know only the general outline of the mechanisms behind cellular "stress responses", the interactions between them and the molecular components involved. Researchers at the Institute for Research in Biomedicine (IRB Barcelona) have designed a new tool to study rescue signalling pathways and cell suicide in depth. A description of this method has been published in the last issue of the specialized Journal Nucleic Acids Research, included in the group Oxford Journals.

"We have developed a strategy to induce controlled mutations in the cell, which allows us to gradually activate several repair systems that are triggered before the cell enters the cell death programme. Using previous methods, the effects on cells are less specific and may lead to parallel responses that hinder analysis of the results", explains the author of the article, Llus Ribas de Pouplana, ICREA researcher and head of the Gene Translation Laboratory at IRB Barcelona.

Traditional techniques consist of exposing the cells to drug or compounds that affect protein production, thereby creating instability. Renaud Geslain, a researcher in Ribas' group and first author of the article, "had a brilliant idea to reproduce the same effect within the cell, without the help of compounds alien to the cell", recalls Ribas. Geslain manipulated a component of the cellular protein synthesis machinery that causes the production of defective proteins. "In response to the accumulation of misfolded proteins, the cellular alarm systems are switched on and stress responses are activated. Given that this approach affects all the proteins, we obtain all the reactions possible, not only responses that could be exclusive to one or a few affected proteins".
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Contact: Snia Armengou
sonia.armengou@irbbarcelona.org
34-934-037-255
Institute for Research in Biomedicine (IRB Barcelona)
Source:Eurekalert

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