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28 February 2013 10:15
The 'pseudogene' contains similar DNA material to the proten PTEN
Scientists have discovered the presence of a 'pseudogene' that is linked to the development of cancers. The research, published in the journal Nature Structural and Molecular Biology, has identified a pseudogene that could be a contributing factor to the onset of brain, prostate, womb, lung and breast cancers. Researchers believe that the pseudogene regulates a well known 'oncogene', which is connected to the advancement of the illness. They hope that by targeting the pseudogene they may be able to alter the effects that it has on the oncogene stemming the cause of cancer.
The pseudogene, which was thought to have no specific function, contains a similar DNA make-up to that of the protein PTEN, which normally acts as a cancer suppressor. A defective PTEN gene can allow tumours to grow and spread, which scientists think could have something to do with the pseudogene. While the pseudogene cannot produce proteins of its own, it produces small strands of genetic material called micro-RNAs, which have the ability to control genes. Scientists hope to neutralise the effect that the micro-RNAs have over the PTEN gene, which can knock the gene out completely or change the levels of protein which it produces.
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