When genes turn on and off
New genetic engineering allows scientists to rethink completely when they are trying to find treatments for diseases. It also has cancer researchers have discovered.
New understanding of what is happening in prostate cells, can provide better diagnosis and treatment of prostate cancer.
Imagine you are in a completely dark alley to shoot at a target that you have been told to the left in front of you. You shoot and shoot, but never hit.
Then turn someone on a low light so you barely can make out the target.
As you can see that the target is not where you were told there was. You have missed because you did not know where the target was. Now that you can make out there, it becomes easier for you to hit it.
New targets for cancer treatment
Sort of like it also for researchers who are trying to find new cancer treatments. They need, among other things, to understand what happens at the molecular level when cells turn on or off genes to influence their own properties. Researchers are trying: to make molecules that help to do this.
Cancer researchers often work with things that are so small that they can not see them with the naked eye or observing them directly in even advanced microscopes.
They are therefore dependent on the survey methods they use, giving them an accurate picture of what actually happens in the cell. If not, it will be like trying to shoot at a target in the dark that is not where they think it is.
What turns on the gene?
In cancerous tissue has happened at the molecular level in the cells that make the balance between cell division in which new cells are, and cell death is out of control.
- It may be that genes that increase cell division, is too much, while genes that were ensured that cells die off. It shows, for example, prostate cancer, said Professor Fahri Saatcioglu, University of Oslo (UiO).
- If we know that a particular gene is too much, it means that a person has prostate cancer, this can be used to diagnose cancer at an early stage. We can also try to develop drugs that affect the amount of genes is on. Then it is important to know what actually happens in cells when genes turn on and off.
New survey methods have shown scientists that their goal was not where they thought it was.
From gene to protein
A gene is a limited part of our genetic material, DNA, which gives the recipe for a protein. It is the proteins that perform all the tasks in our cells.
All cells have the same genes, but different cell types produce different proteins or different amounts of proteins. In this way, different cell types such as muscle and nerve cells, their characteristics.
- We often hear about the genes that control the various properties, but what controls the genes? That's what we and many other scientists trying to figure out, says Odd Stokke Gabrielsen.
He is a professor at the University and expert on the proteins in the cell that turns on genes.
When the cell will turn on a gene to make protein from it, the cell first read the recipe that is stored in the gene. The cell then transcribe the gene. The proteins in the cell whose job is to manage this important process called transcription factors.
- Transcription factors are conductors in this system and determines which genes will be turned on or off. It is the way these transcription factors work in, we now have new knowledge about the past year.
- Until now believed that transcription factors bind to DNA and remain as a permanent switch that ensures that the gene is turned on - the conductor will be at their post.
Established methods gave such results. It is customary to treat cell cultures with chemicals so as to "freeze" the situation in many living cells at once.
- We will then get a static picture of a "frozen" situation in all the cells in total, which is different from the dynamic game that is in a living cell, he says.
New, better methods are now used.
- In order to make a living microcosm visible and see what actually happens, we need to do some tricks. One of these is that we attach fluorescent substances to transcription factors and looks at living single cells under a microscope. Then we can observe how transcription factors actually moves inside the cell looking for the genes they control.
Hopper and the
And this has given them a much different picture of what happens when genes are switched on.
- It turns out that the transcription factors jumping on and off the DNA of seconds when the gene is on.
- Now that we have new methods that provide a better picture of what happens in the cells, we can work more purposefully to find new treatment than when we used methods that are not reflected what actually happens in the cells.
Shown also in prostate cancer cells
The mechanism of the dynamic transcription factors was first proposed in the mid-1980s and was finally shown for the first time for about ten years ago. It does, however, often before new concepts win public acceptance.
Collaborate with one of the leading groups that made the discovery. He was therefore one of the first to adopt the new method.
Saatcioglus research group also showed that the transcription factor in the study, androgenreseptoren which has an important role in both normal physiology and development of prostate cancer behaves in the same dynamic manner in living cells.
- Androgenreseptoren binds to DNA and turn genes on the male sex hormones (androgens) enters the cell. Hormones causes the genes that give more cell division is turned on, while genes that were contributed to cell death is turned off.
The result is that the tumor grows.
- We have investigated how the addition of various substances affect androgenreseptorens binding to DNA and the genes that are affected. These experiments have shown us some of the main mechanisms androgenreseptoren use at the molecular level and why they are important under normal conditions.
- In addition, we have been more targeted on the trail of agents we can work on to see if they can be used to treat prostate cancer.