March 26, 2010
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Why Did the Duck Kill the Chicken? Well… a scientific explanation is RIG-I. Ducks are resistant to influenza viruses but may by asymptomatic carriers. One of the reasons for ducks’ resistance is because ducks express the RIG-I protein that senses the presence of the viruses. Chickens, however, do not appear to express RIG-I or a similar protein and have no method to detect the presence of viruses to illicit an immune response. This could have implications to the poultry industry who do not want to see their entire farm wiped out by a viral outbreak and may want to start breeding transgenic chickens expressing RIG-I. The discovery was led by Dr. Katharine Magor and her team at the University of Alberta and is published in the early edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Promoting Cancer Cell Growth: The YB-1 (Y-box binding protein-1) transcription factor is a known oncogene that is expressed in a significant percentage of breast cancers. In this study, scientists demonstrated that YB-1 induces the expression of CD44 and CD49f, which are associated with cancer stem cells and used as stem cell markers. Although they do not make a direct link to breast cancer stem cells, they suggest that it is this link that explains why YB-1 expressing cancers are resistant to drugs such as paclitaxel and are associated with disease recurrence and poor outcome. The principal investigator of the study was Dr. Sandra Dunn at the University of British Columbia. Details of the study were reported in Cancer Research.
Knock, knock… Let Me In: A transporter protein that is selectively expressed in blood cells can be manipulated to facilitate the entry of cancer drugs into the cell. This is extremely important for new treatment regimes against blood cancers such as AML and other leukemias. Researchers found that the Human Carnitine Transporter encoded by the SLC22A16 gene acts as a gateway and can mediate the uptake of the polyamine class of drugs such as the anti-cancer agent Bleomycin. Dr. Dindial Ramotar, Université de Montréal, first demonstrated this in yeast cells and now in human cells as reported in the Journal of Biological Chemistry.
Please, No More Radiation: A genetic mutation in the p53 gene in children with a rare type of brain cancer – choroid plexus carcinoma (CPC) – is a new marker indicating a poor response to radiation therapy. It is unfortunate that this signals a more aggressive disease, however, this finding would relieve the patient of having to suffer through the difficulties of radiation. The inherited p53 mutation is associated with a condition called Li-Fraumeni syndrome and is found in about 50% of CPC cases. Without the mutation, CPC patients treated by radiation have a good chance of recovery. The study, led by Dr. David Malkin at the Hospital for Sick Children, Toronto, is published in the advance online issue of the Journal of Clinical Oncology.
Mooooooooo: Scientists have finished sequencing the genome of two different types of cows – one beef and one dairy – using Life Technologies’ next generation SOLiD™ 3 System. It cost $130K and took only seven months to complete. In comparison, it cost $50M and four years, finishing in 2009, to sequence the first cow. The genomic information is important to the industry for making breeding decisions and to identify genetic markers of specific desirable traits. So that T-bone steak waiting for you to grill up this summer will be even juicier and tastier. The Bovine Genomics Program at the University of Alberta led by Dr. Stephen Moore performed the sequencing study.