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Discovery of cellular 'switch' may provide new means of triggering cell death, treating disease
Date:3/11/2010

, cell biology and biochemistry. Eventually we reached the only logical conclusions we could make."

"This is a completely novel finding, and all of the players in this story are well known, well studied aspects of a very important process in our lives," said Blumenthal. "The minute I saw the results, I knew it was a very, very important finding with wide implications."

Since the failure of apoptosis is one of the main contributors to the development of tumors, many biomedical researchers believe that a better understanding of the programmed cell death process could lead to potential therapeutic agents for those suffering from a number of diseases caused by abnormal apoptosis, said Xue. "The biomedical potential here is for researchers to be able turn a pro-survival enzyme into an enzyme that is pro-death," Xue said.

The Science study by Xue and his team was funded by the Burroughs Wellcome Fund and the National Institutes of Health.

The researchers are now investigating whether human cells have the mechanisms to convert the function of Dicer enzyme in the same manner as C. elegans cells, said Xue. Nearly half of the genes found in C. elegans are believed to have functional counterparts in humans, he said.

C. elegans is a key organism for scientists to study for several reasons, according to Xue. It was the first organism whose genome was completely sequenced, and its transparency under microscopes has allowed scientists to study many aspects of cellular and developmental biology, as well as genetics. Nobel prizes for C. elegans biomedical research were awarded in 2002, 2006 and 2008.


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Contact: Ding Xue
ding.xue@colorado.edu
303-492-0271
University of Colorado at Boulder
Source:Eurekalert  

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