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

Compound in citrus oil could reduce dry mouth in head, neck cancer patients

May 21, 2018
A compound found in citrus oils could help alleviate dry mouth caused by radiation therapy in head and neck cancer patients, according to a new study by researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine.

Scientists reveal likely cause of childhood leukaemia

May 21, 2018
A major new analysis reveals for the first time the likely cause of most cases of childhood leukaemia, following more than a century of controversy about its origins.

Bladder cancer model could pave the way for better drug efficacy studies

May 21, 2018
Understanding that not all bladder cancers are the same, researchers at the University of North Carolina Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center have created a tool that may help them to uncover why only a fraction of patients ...

Ice cream funds research showing new strategy against thyroid cancer

May 21, 2018
Anaplastic thyroid cancer is almost uniformly fatal, with an average lifespan of about 5 months after diagnosis. And standard treatment for the condition includes 7 weeks of radiation, often along with chemotherapy.

MR spectroscopy imaging reveals effects of targeted treatment of mutant IDH1 gliomas

May 18, 2018
Using a novel imaging method, a Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) research team is investigating the mechanisms behind a potential targeted treatment for a subtype of the deadly brains tumors called gliomas. In their report ...

Particle shows promise to prevent the spread of triple-negative breast cancer

May 18, 2018
USC researchers have pinpointed a remedy to prevent the spread of triple-negative breast cancer. Metastatic breast cancer is a leading cause of death for women. The findings appear today in Nature Communications.

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.