Each year, some 29,000 adults and 2,000 children are diagnosed with leukemia, a form of cancer that is caused by the abnormal production of white blood cells in the bone marrow. Current treatments rely primarily on killing the cancer cells, which also destroys normal cells. But what if a way could be found to reprogram cancerous cells back into normal cells? A team of Syracuse University researchers believes it may have found a way to do just that.
Led by Michael Cosgrove, assistant professor of biology in SU's College of Arts and Sciences, the team discovered a way to disrupt the protein switch that is a critical component in the process to create white blood cells. Its discoveries could lead to a more effective way to treat some forms of leukemia and revolutionize the approach to treating other forms of cancer. The research was recently published online in the prestigious Journal of Biological Chemistry of the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, and is forthcoming in the print edition.
"We believe our discovery is just the tip of the iceberg," Cosgrove says. "Our hope is that from the knowledge we have gained in understanding how these proteins work in normal cells, we will be able to find new ways to treat all types of leukemia. We also think the discoveries will have broad implications in treating other types of cancer."
To understand how white blood cells are produced, one must begin by looking at the genetic code, the DNA, which provides the blueprint for all the life processes that are carried out in cells throughout the body. All of the cells in the body begin as stem cells with the same DNA. If stretched out in one continuous strand, this genetic blueprint would be about two meters long (about six feet), yet cells somehow manage to compact this rather long DNA strand into its nucleus without tangling or disrupting the exact DNA sequence. "It's sort of like stuffing 10,000 miles of spaghetti into
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