Circular RNAs Could Be Responsible For Development Of Cancer, Study Shows

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Australian cancer researchers from Flinders University have uncovered a significant correlation between cancer risk and circular RNAs, genetic fragments found in cells. Published in the journal Cancer Cell, their study reveals that certain circular RNAs can bind to DNA in cells, leading to DNA mutations and ultimately causing cancer.

Cancer could be caused from within the body

The discovery of ‘ER3D’ (endogenous RNA-directed DNA damage) has introduced a groundbreaking area of medical and molecular biology research. According to Professor Simon Conn from Flinders University, this finding challenges the conventional belief that environmental and genetic factors primarily cause cancer.

It is the first instance of a genetic molecule found in many individuals that can mutate DNA and initiate cancer internally. This breakthrough paves the way for using these molecules as therapeutic targets and disease markers in the early stages, increasing the chances of successful cancer treatment.

The study analyzed Guthrie cards, neonatal blood tests, of infants who later developed acute leukemia. Comparing them to babies without blood disorders, researchers discovered higher levels of a specific circular RNA in the blood of those who developed leukemia. These findings indicate that the abundance of circular RNA molecules in certain individuals’ cells plays a crucial role in developing cancer-causing genes.

Circular RNAs bind to DNA, triggering breakage

Circular RNAs have the ability to bind to DNA at various locations in different cells. This binding trigger changes that eventually lead to DNA breakage, requiring the cell to undergo repair for survival. Professor Conn explains that the repair process is imperfect, resulting in small or significant mutations. Additionally, circular RNAs can influence the physical positioning of the damaged DNA in the cell nucleus, potentially causing two distinct DNA regions to fuse during repair.

Dr. Vanessa Conn, the lead author, suggests that multiple circular RNAs may collaborate to induce breaks at multiple DNA sites. She explains that the process is called chromosomal translocation, which is a major problem for cells since it leads to gene fusions that convert normal cells to cancerous cells.

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