September 2020

Bio-Synthesis Newsletter - September 2020

Modified mRNA for Gene Delivery

Modified RNAGene therapy involves replacement of defective genes by delivery of the correct genetic material to establish normal functions. Synthetic mRNA now offers an alternative delivery option of DNA sequences. Modified mRNA can function as an alternative to plasmid DNA (pDNA) for transcript replacement and vaccination therapy. Mature eukaryotic mRNA consists of five portions, (1) the cap structure, (2) the 5’-untranslated region, (3) an open reading frame, (4) the 3’-untranslated region, and (5) a tail of 100 to 250 adenosine residues. Also, various modification can increase the stability of mRNA and help it evade the immune system of a cell.

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Elephants and Cancer

CPPElephants can live to 60 or even 70 years and rarely develop cancer. Vazquez et al. in 2018 reported that elephants have extra leukemia inhibitory factor or LIF genes. One LIF gene, LIF6 is expressed in response to DNA damage. Comparing the genomes of elephants with the genomes of closely related species allowed identification of this gene. Damaged DNA in elephants activates the tumor suppressor gene TP53 and turns on LIF6 which induces cell death through a protein forming pores in the membranes of mitochondria. It appears that elephants have a lower risk for cancer because this genetic pathway kills precancerous cells as soon as low levels of DNA damage are detected.

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Tau in Pick’s Disease

Tau Structure MandelowTau is a microtubule-associated protein. Tau stabalizes axons and is involved in neural development, and neuronal polarity. Pick’s disease is a rare form of progressive dementia which typically occurs in late middle age involving localized atrophy of the brain. The condition is also called frontotemporal dementia. In Pick’s disease, tau proteins do not behave like they do in healthy minds. Pick bodies contain abnormal aggregations of tau. Recently a new tau protein fold was discovered in the brain of a patient with Pick’s disease. Tau peptides may be used to study their specific interactions with microtubules.

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A Cure Within

bookThe book “A CURE Within” describes how scientists attempt to unleash the immune system to kill cancer. Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press offers this book for sale. Most of us over 30 knows someone, a friend or a family member, lost too soon. Defeating cancer is a challenge to medical science. This book describes the pioneering science of cancer immunotherapy. Immunotherapy, or immune-oncology, is still in its infancy. However, mobilizing the immune system to recognize and attack cancer, is only a recent development in medical science but offers an alternative, less invasive approach to cancer therapies.

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