A new protein has been found by scientists at the University of Rochester, Harvard University and Albert Einstein College of Medicine in the naked mole rat, a subterranean rodent, that could help prevent cancer. The protein was associated with locus, a cluster of genes that could be found in mice as well as humans. The findings were published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, a multidisciplinary science journal published weekly.
The genes, known as INK4, had the ability to synthesise three cancer-suppressing proteins, namely: p15INK4b, p16INK4a and ARF. These proteins stopped the cells from separating in the case of the cells being mutated. When Jorge Azpurua, a student-researcher, was looking forward to clone the P16 protein of the rat, which had a lifespan of 30 years and was known to never get cancer, he noticed that there was a fourth protein present and a result of the fusion of p15INK4b and p16INK4a. This protein was also capable in stopping the cells from separating.
The professor of Biology from the University of Rochester, Vera Gorbunova, said that the product of the two proteins was called pALTINK4a/b. He said that the researchers believe that the protein might contribute to the long age of the rat. He added that this could have also contributed to the ability to prevent tumours from growing in the rat.
According to News-Medical, the locus helped in carrying genetic instructions for synthesising the various cancer-fighting proteins. The locus that was found in the rats could encode four proteins that could fight cancer, while the ones in mice and humans had the ability to encode only three.
Through earlier research, Gorbunova and Andrei Seluanov, the assistant professor at the Department of Biology in the University of Rochester, had found HMW-HA as the chemical which resulted in the activation of the anti-cancer response of the locus.
According to Seluanov, INK4 was considered to be the most commonly mutated locus in cancer in humans. He said that when the gene was deleted, it resulted in the formation of tumours. He added that there was evidence to support the role of INK4 in ageing-related diseases like atherosclerosis.
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