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Kill code in cells could destroy cancer
November 12, 2018, 11:20 am

A new study has found that the natural mechanism of the body could be harnessed to help destroy cancer cells and curtail their ability to become resistant to treatment, without any of the side-effects of chemotherapy.

Scientists at Northwestern University in the US have found that certain RNA molecules can, not only kill cancer cells, but that they can also simultaneously prevent them from becoming resistant to treatment by eradicating several genes that cancer cells needed to survive.

The researchers uncovered a code that is embedded in the RNA and microRNAs of every individual cell, which has been shown to be responsible for ability of cancer cells to self-destruct.

Chemotherapy can also trigger the toxic RNA and microRNA molecules, but researchers say their way of using the body’s preventive mechanism avoids the undesirable side-effects of chemotherapy.

The team behind the study described how large RNAs can be transformed into small, toxic microRNA molecules that then use special ‘kill codes’ to destroy cancer cells. They found that a sequence of six nucleotides — the basic structural unit and building block for DNA and RNA — contained in the microRNAs made these molecules toxic to cancer cells.

The team tested over 4,000 different possible combinations of nucleotide bases from those six initial nucleotides to find the deadliest, most toxic combination. “From our studies, we are now in a position to design artificial microRNAs that are much more powerful in killing cancer cells than even the ones developed by nature," wrote the study authors.

Because the cancer cannot adapt to the toxic RNAs, the findings may one day lead to an unstoppable treatment against cancer. However, the researchers cautioned that it may be many years before such a treatment is a reality.


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