British researchers have identified a piece of non-coding Ribonucleic acid (RNA) that stops cells turning cancerous, reveals a study.
The human genome contains around three metres of DNA, of which only about 2 percent contains genes that code for proteins and the rest has been recorded as RNA — transcribed from a stretch of DNA that doesn’t code for a protein.
“In our study we’ve identified that a strand of non-coding RNA prevents the growth of a switch getting stuck and suppresses the spread of cancer,” said Adele Murrell from the University of Bath in UK.
The findings could be used to understand how other non-coding RNAs function and to develop potential gene therapies to treat cancer, the researchers said.
The non-coding RNA fragment maintains healthy cells through two mechanisms: Firstly, by regulating the levels of one of its neighbouring genes that is involved in cell replication; secondly by suppressing a network of genes that prepares cells to change their shape and prepare for spread, explained the researchers in the paper published in the journal — Nature Communications.
The scientists were able to distinguish between these two mechanisms by using smaller interfering RNAs (siRNAs) to either specifically stop the non-coding RNA from being made or to degrade the RNA immediately after it was made.
Both approaches led to cells changing their shape and transforming into migratory cells, the study revealed.