A Northwestern University team spent about eight years meticulously studying the human genome and all of its various chemicals and processes it uses to regulate itself, and it has discovered what it bills as a seemingly foolproof “self-destruct pathway,” that could be utilized for healing, to destroy any type of cancer cell one can think of.
The mechanism they found involves the creation of things called siRNAs, small RNA molecules that serve to interfere with a multitude of genes that are essential to the destructive proliferation of malignant, fast-growing cells. It is said that these siRNAs reportedly have little effect on our healthy, good cells. However, one might see already that if this cancer fighting strategy has risks, people should take a very close look at them.
They say insight was provided by two recent studies, and Marcus Peter, the research leader along with his colleagues have outlined in detail the series of events that the siRNA molecules trigger in our bodies.
They called this process of siRNA molecules causing cancer cell death DISE, or Death By Induced Survival gene Elmination. The team managed to identify six-nucleotide-long sequences that would be required for inducing this state of “DISE.”
It was explained that when researchers examined the nucleotide sequences of the various noncoding, non-protein translating RNA molecules our bodies produce naturally to selectively inhibit the expression of genes, they made the discovery that DISE-associated sequences are there, present at one end of several tumor suppressing RNA strands.
Yet another investigation concluded that those sequences can also be found throughout the genome, embedded in protein-coding sequences.
(Image credit: artofthecell)
“We think this is how multicellular organisms eliminated cancer before the development of the adaptive immune system, which is about 500 million years old,” Peter said last year, in a statement. “It could be a fail-safe that forces rogue cells to commit suicide. We believe it is active in every cell protecting us from cancer.”
However, there was one small problem: they still had to determine just how the body produces these free siRNAs that are capable of producing DISE. That’s how complicated the body gets.
In another new study, a breakthrough came as it was published last month in eLife, and in that one Peter and his team observed the body making these molecules, as our cells basically chop a larger strand of RNA, that codes for a cell death cycle protein known as CD95L, into multiple siRNAs.
A series of experiments were conducted, and then they managed to show that the exact same cellular machinery could be utilized in converting other large protein-coding RNAs into these DISE siRNAs.
Even more remarkably, they found that somewhere around three percent of all the coding RNAs in our entire genome could be “processed” to serve the purpose.
(Image credit: rebrn)
“Now that we know the kill code, we can trigger the mechanism without having to use chemotherapy and without messing with the genome,” Peter said last month in a press conference.
Now, they want to make “next-generation medications” and “gene therapy,” and while this sounds like it makes a lot of sense, it’s true that people would be wise to keep their wits about them and know just what they are signing up for if they proceed with some new treatment resulting from this research.