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Silenced genes as a warning sign of blood cancer
Date:8/4/2009

for humans. If so, an early methylation test in high-risk individuals could provide clues about a developing cancer," Christoph Plass says. In this case, preventive medical intervention might be possible. Drugs preventing methyl group attachment might delay the onset of cancer. First clinical studies have already been started to check this. "This is probably most effective in a very early phase of methylation," Plass explains. The researchers believe that the first chemically deactivated genes trigger whole cascades of changes in the genetic material which can hardly be controlled at a later stage.

Keyword: Epigenetics

The cells of the roughly 200 different tissues of the human body can fulfill their special tasks only by regulating the activity of their respective genes very specifically. Although every single gene is equipped with its own control elements, this is not enough for complex coordination. There is a second code that serves as an additional control level. In addition to the genetic switches that are directly integrated in the genetic material, the DNA, genes can also be switched on or off by chemical labeling of the DNA or the DNA packaging proteins. The most common of such epigenetic mutations is the attachment of methyl groups. The effect of these small chemical compounds is that a gene can no longer be read and translated into proteins.

Unlike genetic mutations, which permanently change the sequence of the DNA building blocks, all epigenetic mutations are reversible and, therefore, potential target structures of appropriate drugs.


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Contact: Dr. Sibylle Kohlstaedt
s.kohlstaedt@dkfz.de
Helmholtz Association of German Research Centres
Source:Eurekalert

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