Brain cancer patients lack RNA ‘editing’, scientists find

June 28, 2017

Scientists in India and the UK observed a lack of ‘editing’ in the microRNAs of the brain tissues of brain cancer patients. Their discovery increases the possibility of using genome-engineering techniques to slow, or reverse the disease.

MicroRNAs are a special type of RNA molecules that do not code for proteins, but participate in crucial regulatory functions. They can introduce targeted variations in organization of their building blocks, a process known as editing. In turn, editing can enable RNA molecules to expand their functional repertoire, a process vital for maintaining cell diversity.

The present study by researchers from the CSIR-Institute of Genomics & Integrative Biology, shows that a specific organization of these building blocks promote the occurrence of targeted variations, and that certain variations are decreased in patients with brain cancer.

The team also examined normal microRNA editing patterns in 13 human tissue types and found the healthy brain to have the highest amount of editing—implicating the importance of the observed drop in case of brain cancers.

“What precisely is happening, we can’t say, but with altered levels and positions of these editing events, cellular output can be significantly altered which we see in case of cancers,” said study co-author Dr. ArijitMukhopadhyay from the University of Salford in the UK.

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