Fri, Feb 10, 2012 - Page 2 News List

Gene-mutation find could help scientists combat diseases

By Lee I-chia  /  Staff Reporter

Using genetic screening, a medical research team from National Taiwan University and collaborators from around the country said they have unearthed the mechanism of genetic mutation, a breakthrough that could prove useful in the quest to develop treatments for various forms of cancer and metabolic diseases.

The research results of the team led by Yu-yi Lin (林育誼), an assistant professor at the school, has been published in the scientific journal Nature, university vice president Lo Ching-hua (羅清華) said.

“Biologists have found that there are dozens of acyltransferase and deacetylases [KDACs] in a human cell, maintaining the balance of acetylation and deacetylation,” Lin said, adding that acyltransferase and KDACs are like apps on a tablet PC, so when a certain acyltransferase joins with proteins in the cell, it performs certain functions, but KDACs are antagonistic toward the proteins and cause dysfunctions.

When an imbalance between the two occurs, such as when the body ages, KDACs tend to function more than acyltransferase and metabolic diseases are more likely to occur, Lin said.

Therefore, with the application of RNA interference (RNAi) technologies to analize the whole genome, the team was able to map out the interaction network of genes in histone deacetylase.

Lin used Facebook as an example and said just like understanding a person by observing his or her interactions and relationships with other people, mapping out the interaction network allowed them to understand the functions of each acyltransferase or KDACs.

The team discovered that a crucial protein in the liver cell that can be modified by acetylation, Lin said, adding that once the modifying mechanism and functions of each KDAC are understood, then suppressants of certain KDACs can be developed to treat metabolic diseases, such as diabetes and high blood pressure, as well as slow down the speed of oxidation.

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