Research identifies genes vital to preventing childhood leukemia

July 18, 2011, University of Western Ontario

Researchers at The University of Western Ontario have identified genes that may be important for preventing childhood leukemia. Acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) is a cancer of the blood that occurs primarily in young children. It's frequently associated with mutations or chromosomal abnormalities that arise during embryonic or fetal development. Working with mice, researchers led by Rodney DeKoter identified two key genes that appear essential in the prevention of B cell ALL, the most common form of ALL in children. The study is published online in Blood, the Journal of the American Society of Hematology.

In the study, mice were generated with mutations in two genes called PU.1 and Spi-B. Mutation of either PU.1 or Spi-B individually had little effect. Unexpectedly, mutation of both genes resulted in 100% of the mice developing ALL. Eighty percent of ALL cases in children are of the B cell type. The study found PU.1 and Spi-B have unanticipated functional redundancy as "tumor suppressor" genes that prevent leukemia.

"You can think of PU.1 and Spi-B proteins as brakes on a car. If the main brake (PU.1) fails, you still have the emergency brake (Spi-B). However, if both sets of brakes fail, the car speeds out of control," explains DeKoter, an associate professor in the Department of Microbiology & Immunology at Western's Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry. "And uncontrolled cell division is an important cause of leukemia."

PU.1 is an essential regulator in the development of the immune system, and mutations in this gene have been previously associated with human ALL. DeKoter hopes these studies will ultimately lead to improved, less toxic, therapies for . Currently, about 80% of ALL patients go into complete remission when treated with aggressive chemotherapy.

More information: http://bloodjournal.hematologylibrary.org/content/early/2011/07/15/blood-2011-02-335539.abstract

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Discovery of the 'pioneer' that opens the genome

January 23, 2018
Our genome contains all the information necessary to form a complete human being. This information, encoded in the genome's DNA, stretches over one to two metres long but still manages to squeeze into a cell about 100 times ...

Researchers identify gene responsible for mesenchymal stem cells' stem-ness'

January 22, 2018
Many doctors, researchers and patients are eager to take advantage of the promise of stem cell therapies to heal damaged tissues and replace dysfunctional cells. Hundreds of ongoing clinical trials are currently delivering ...

Genes contribute to biological motion perception and its covariation with autistic traits

January 22, 2018
Humans can readily perceive and recognize the movements of a living creature, based solely on a few point-lights tracking the motion of the major joints. Such exquisite sensitivity to biological motion (BM) signals is essential ...

Peers' genes may help friends stay in school, new study finds

January 18, 2018
While there's scientific evidence to suggest that your genes have something to do with how far you'll go in school, new research by a team from Stanford and elsewhere says the DNA of your classmates also plays a role.

Two new breast cancer genes emerge from Lynch syndrome gene study

January 18, 2018
Researchers at Columbia University Irving Medical Center and NewYork-Presbyterian have identified two new breast cancer genes. Having one of the genes—MSH6 and PMS2—approximately doubles a woman's risk of developing breast ...

A centuries-old math equation used to solve a modern-day genetics challenge

January 18, 2018
Researchers developed a new mathematical tool to validate and improve methods used by medical professionals to interpret results from clinical genetic tests. The work was published this month in Genetics in Medicine.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.