News of Note—The bad genes behind cancer; How T cells drive autoimmune diseases

glioblastoma
Yale scientists used CRISPR to discover key gene mutations behind glioblastoma.

Yale scientists pinpoint gene mutations that cause glioblastoma

More than 223 genes have been implicated in glioblastoma, an aggressive brain tumor with a poor prognosis, but which gene mutations are critical to the formation and spread of the disease remains unknown. So a team of researchers led by Yale used CRISPR gene editing to search for glioblastoma drivers in mice and found several combinations that seem to cause the cancer. They believe the technology, described in the journal Nature Neuroscience, could be used to tailor treatments to patients and discover new drug targets. (Release)

Learning how T cells contribute to autoimmune disease

Researchers at Monash University wanted to learn more about how mutations in a gene called PTPN2 affect the formation of T cells in the immune system and how this process leads to the development of autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis and type 1 diabetes. The gene encodes an enzyme called tyrosine phosphatase N2, and it’s long been known that when that process goes wrong, T cells can attack normal tissues in the body, resulting in autoimmune disease. So in the lab, they removed the gene PTPN2, which sparked a proliferation of specific T cells with pro-inflammatory properties. They believe the discovery, described in the Journal of Experimental Medicine, may be useful in developing therapies that target PTPN2 pathways. (Release)

One bad gene may feed liver cancer

Liver cancer cells need energy to thrive and proliferate—more energy, in fact, than normal cells require. But where do they get that nutrition? Scientists at the University of Maryland zeroed in on a gene called SLC13A5, which does most of its work in the liver, producing a protein that shuttles citrate into cells. SLC13A5 had been previously linked to obesity and diabetes, suggesting a metabolic role for the gene that may also help liver cancer cells thrive, the researchers surmised. So they used RNA interference to suppress production of the SLC13A5 protein in human liver cancer cells, and discovered a significant slowdown in cell growth and division. The research was published in The Journal of Biological Chemistry. (Release)

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