For decades, scientists have been teasing out DNAs secrets, learning how one snippet of DNA controls another, how some genes wield incredible power over others, and how the DNA code encrypts all kinds of biochemical signals start, stop, turn on, turn off, and so on. Scientists have made great progress understanding the complex signals that govern diseases like cancer, often finding that a key gene that should be on is turned off, or that a gene that is supposed to be off is turned on, or that a mutant gene creates a faulty protein that doesnt work correctly.
Now researchers are trying to make more sense of the glut of genetic information becoming available. For instance, what does a given sequence of chemical bases that make up our DNA, such as ACTGGGCTAGTTGGCAGT, really mean for our health" Scientists are turning more attention to the big picture, looking at broad mechanisms that determine how our bodies interpret the DNA, the master blueprint that controls how an organism develops and functions. Its part of a body of work known as epigenetics. The main idea is that genetic information can be regulated on a more global scale than just on a gene-by-gene basis, which has been the focus of much genetic research thus far.
The team, based in the Universitys Department of Biomedical Genetics and the James P. Wilmot Cancer Center, has shown how epigenetic information can play a significant role in causing cancer.
You might assume that a fruit fly that inherits a mutation that can increase cancer is more at risk for the disease than its sibling that does not inherit that mutation, said geneticist Willis Li, Ph.D., the lead author of the study and associate professor in the Department of Biomedical Genetics.
We have found an example where this is not true. We found that the cancer-causing effects of certain mutations can persist in cells that dont
|Contact: Tom Rickey|
University of Rochester Medical Center