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NYU researchers simulate molecular biological clock

ese genes has been preserved since the last common ancestor of mammals and chicken, which lived 310 million years ago. "This study is an excellent example of the power of comparative genomics to illuminate how human genes are regulated," says Burge. "As more genome data becomes available and the technology becomes more sophisticated, I think we'll find that even more genes are targeted by microRNAs," predicts Lewis. In addition, the team discovered some hints about how microRNAs find their targets. To produce a protein, the cell first makes a template for that protein by constructing a molecule called messenger RNA. MicroRNAs inhibit protein production by associating themselves with particular messenger RNAs, thereby reducing the amount of protein that's ultimately produced. In this study, the researchers determined which portion of the microRNA is most important for this process, and identified additional determinants in the messenger RNA that are likely to contribute to recognition by microRNAs. These findings contribute to the recent interest in potential therapeutic uses of RNA. For example, using a technique known as RNA interference, or RNAi, researchers are shutting off genes by delivering into cells artificial microRNA-like molecules called siRNAs. RNAi has already transformed how many labs are investigating gene functions, and siRNAs are being developed for clinical applications. Learning more about how microRNAs operate in human cells should help scientists to understand how best to exploit siRNAs for treating disease.
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