Building proteins to counteract cancer

November 11, 2014 by Joe Kullman, Arizona State University
Building proteins to counteract cancer
Karmella Haynes (left) is leading research to explore the capability of genetically engineered proteins to reactivate tumor suppressors inside body cells to prevent the onset of cancer, or arrest its development. Credit: Jessica Hochreiter/ASU

Karmella Haynes wants to help the body fight cancer by designing proteins to stop the disease.

Haynes, a synthetic biologist at Arizona State University, is leading research to explore the capability of genetically engineered proteins to reactivate tumor suppressors inside body cells to prevent the onset of , or arrest its development.

"We can make and reprogram them to turn on natural tumor suppressors in cells that have been de-activated," said Haynes, an assistant professor in the School of Biological and Health Systems Engineering, one of ASU's Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering.

Cancer can set in when certain genes in the nucleus of cells lose their ability to restrain tumor development. That happens when chromatin – DNA and proteins that are folded together in chromosomes – becomes overactive. Cancer causes too many folding proteins to be produced – the tumor-restraining genes are folded too much, making these important genes lose their ability to function properly.

"We have the ability to build new synthetic proteins by borrowing pieces of the natural DNA-folding proteins. The new synthetic proteins are designed to counteract cancer-associated chromatin folding," Haynes explained.

Supported by a grant from National Cancer Institute through the National Institutes of Health (NIH), she is working on a technique for effectively introducing the engineered proteins into chromatin structures.

The new proteins would be programmed to attach to genes in a manner that should restore the tumor-suppressing function "and start killing ," she said.

Explore further: Synthetic lethality offers a new approach to kill tumor cells

Related Stories

Synthetic lethality offers a new approach to kill tumor cells

October 31, 2014
The scientific community has made significant strides in recent years in identifying important genetic contributors to malignancy and developing therapeutic agents that target altered genes and proteins. A recent approach ...

Chinese herbal extract may help kill off pancreatic cancer cells

July 1, 2014
A diagnosis of pancreatic cancer—the fourth most common cause of cancer death in the U.S.—can be devastating. Due in part to aggressive cell replication and tumor growth, pancreatic cancer progresses quickly and has a ...

A new target for diabetes treatment

November 25, 2013
In her synthetic biology lab, Karmella Haynes focuses much of her effort on developing better ways of exploring how human body cells work – or don't work like they should. She'll be applying her expertise in that area to ...

Cancer exosome 'micro factories' aid in cancer progression

October 23, 2014
Exosomes, tiny, virus-sized particles released by cancer cells, can bioengineer micro-RNA (miRNA) molecules resulting in tumor growth. They do so with the help of proteins, such as one named Dicer. New research from The University ...

New regions of genetic material are involved in the development of colon cancer

July 23, 2014
Most research on human cancer genes have been focused on the regions of the coding genome (exons) that are to be translated in the form of amino acids thus proteins. But just before each gene, there is a regulatory region ...

Recommended for you

Study tracks evolutionary transition to destructive cancer

February 23, 2018
Evolution describes how all living forms cope with challenges in their environment, as they struggle to persevere against formidable odds. Mutation and selective pressure—cornerstones of Darwin's theory—are the means ...

Putting black skin cancer to sleep—for good

February 22, 2018
An international research team has succeeded in stopping the growth of malignant melanoma by reactivating a protective mechanism that prevents tumor cells from dividing. The team used chemical agents to block the enzymes ...

Cancer risk associated with key epigenetic changes occurring through normal aging process

February 22, 2018
Some scientists have hypothesized that tumor-promoting changes in cells during cancer development—particularly an epigenetic change involving DNA methylation—arise from rogue cells escaping a natural cell deterioration ...

NEJM reports positive results for larotrectinib against TRK-fusion cancer

February 22, 2018
In 2013, the labs of University of Colorado Cancer Center investigator Robert C. Doebele, MD, PhD, and Dana-Farber Cancer Institute investigator Pasi A. Jänne, MD, PhD reported in Nature Medicine the presence of TRK gene ...

New therapeutic gel shows promise against cancerous tumors

February 21, 2018
Scientists at the UNC School of Medicine and NC State have created an injectable gel-like scaffold that can hold combination chemo-immunotherapeutic drugs and deliver them locally to tumors in a sequential manner. The results ...

Five novel genetic changes linked to pancreatic cancer risk

February 21, 2018
In what is believed to be the largest pancreatic cancer genome-wide association study to date, researchers at the Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center and the National Cancer Institute, and collaborators from over 80 other ...

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.