Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Chickens provide clues for cancer treatment

There are many different methods that scientists have tried in order to come up with cures for cancer. Recent studies have shown that grape seeds or viruses may help us in fighting this awful disease; not something most of us would expect. Now, an international team of scientists has shown that chickens also hold clues for new treatments. A genetic study shows that a specific chicken protein has the capability to kill cancer cells.

Analysis of a gene called NK-lysin, responsible for production of a protein carrying the same name, revealed that chickens possess two variants. Both of the variants of this particular gene are actively involved in preventing bacterial infections. However, one of the variants was found to be active in preventing development of tumours. NK-lysin was already known to be a factor involved in the immune system, which explains why it is involved with bacterial infections. Its effective role in cancer prevention, however, was previously unknown.

Peculiarly, there is only a very small difference in structure between the two genetic variants. Genes consist of individual building blocks, commonly abbreviated with the letters A, T, C and G. Normally, genes consist of thousands or hundreds of thousands of these building blocks. Only one of them was found to differ between the two variants of NK-lysin. It did, however, induce all the changes that resulted in its significant increase in tumour-killing abilities.

This discovery could help us in developing new treatments aimed at killing cancer cells. By starting with the most efficacious variant of NK-lysin, scientists could further enhance the genetic structure, and thereby the corresponding protein structure, in order to create an anti-tumour drug. According to the scientists, the next step is to see whether such variants can be found in other animals.

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