Friday, May 16, 2014

Link Between Down Syndrome, Leukemia Uncovered

News Brief by Prachi Sharma

Researchers from the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute have developed insight into the previously unknown connection between Down syndrome and acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL). Down syndrome is correlated with a greater risk for developing ALL during childhood, as those with Down syndrome are at 20 times higher risk for developing childhood ALL than the general population. 

In a recent study, researchers found evidence that this association may result from silencing of PRC2 proteins in B cells. The disease, also known as B-ALL, occurs when there is an overproduction of immature B cells. After testing the normal and abnormal B cells in mice, it was evident that the prime difference between the two types of cells was due to the loss of function of PRC2. Researchers then analyzed the activity of the genes PRC2 controlled and their relationship, if any, to B-ALL. Ultimately, 100 genes were active in B-ALL and were all controlled by PRC2 - when PRC2 was silenced, these genes drove cell growth and division. 

After further investigation, researchers concluded that the gene HMGN1 was responsible for silencing PRC2. This conclusion is groundbreaking: researchers suggest that drugs targeting HMGN1 and activating PCR2 could be effective in fighting ALL in those with Down syndrome.

Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. (2014, April 20). Link between Down syndrome, leukemia uncovered. ScienceDaily. Retrieved May 15, 2014 from
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