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Archive - Oct 29, 2014

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Scientist-of-the-Year Award for Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy Research

The School of Biological Sciences at Royal Holloway, University of London, has been recognized with a national award for its world-class research in the development of novel therapies for rare diseases such as Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD). Professor George Dickson, from the School of Biological Sciences and Chair of Molecular Cell Biology, received the Muscular Dystrophy Campaign’s “Scientist of the Year” award from TV presenter Sue Barker (see photo) at the DMD Campaign’s annual conference held in Coventry, UK, on October 18, 2014. Professor Dickson commented: “This is a really nice recognition of the hard work and dedication of our research team, and of past colleagues. I thank my lucky stars to have such a talented team of brilliant, dedicated people, and such a tremendous and supportive research environment in the School and the College.” Professor Dickson has dedicated his career to studying neuromuscular disease and muscle cell biology, including the first cloning of an intact dystrophin gene, the discovery of the role of cell adhesion molecules in muscle stem cell fusion, the first identification of utrophin, and the first description of exon skipping in Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD). He has also conducted notable research into gene therapy for atherosclerosis, and genetic vaccination against HIV/AIDS.

Tumor-Derived Exosomes Aid Breast Cancer Progression

Exosomes--tiny, virus-sized particles released by cancer cells (and by virtually all cells in the body)-- can bioengineer micro-RNA (miRNA) molecules resulting in tumor growth. They do so with the help of proteins, such as one named Dicer. New research from The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center suggests that Dicer may also serve as a biomarker for breast cancer and possibly open up new avenues for diagnosis and treatment. Results from the investigation were published online on October 23, 2014 in Cancer Cell. "Exosomes derived from cells and blood serum of patients with breast cancer, have been shown to initiate tumor growth in non-tumor-forming cells when Dicer and other proteins associated with the development of miRNAs are present," said Raghu Kalluri, M.D., Ph.D., chair of the department of cancer biology at MD Anderson. "These findings offer opportunities for the development of exosomes-based biomarkers and shed insight into the mechanisms of how cancer spreads." Exosomes are small vesicles consisting of DNA, RNA, and proteins enclosed in membranes made up of two lipid layers. They perform specialized functions such as coagulation, intercellular signaling, and cell "waste management." They are shed into bodily fluids forming a source of disease-specific nucleic acids and proteins. Increasingly, exosomes are studied for their potential as both indicators of disease, and as a prospective new treatment approach. Exosomes typically contain a cellular stew of smaller components including proteins, messenger RNA (mRNA), and miRNAs. Dr. Kalluri's team reported that breast-cancer-associated exosomes contain specific miRNAs associated with a multi-protein complex known as RNA-induced silencing complex (RISC).