December 21, 2006 -- Oakland, CA– A new study co-authored by Children's Hospital Oakland Research Institute (CHORI) senior scientist, Elizabeth Theil, Ph.D., is the first to show that partial copies of DNA called mRNA (or messenger RNA) morph into specific three dimensional shapes when it combines with a protein regulator called IRP1. This discovery is incredibly important to researchers who design medications based on the specific characteristics of a disease.
The study, featured in the December issue of Science, contains some significant surprises about the structure and protein plasticity of IRP1 and the mRNA. Dr. Theil chairs the Council on BioIron at CHORI and is a professor at the University of California, Berkeley. She co-authored the study with William Walden, Ph.D. a professor of microbiology and immunology and his colleague, Karl Voltz, Ph.D., an associate professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago.
The researchers found that when mRNA and IRP1 join they change shapes to fit each other. In addition, the IRP1 changes its role from being an enzyme to an iron regulator. Each mRNA codes one or two proteins in the body. In this case the coded protein was Ferritin, which is essential for managing iron in the body. This discovery could help researchers design medications for patients with iron overload that occurs in hemochromotosis, Sickle Cell Disease and Thalassemia.
"Currently, there are medications available that are based on DNA structures such as anti-cancer drugs. Unfortunately, the problem with targeting DNA is that both healthy and cancerous cells have the same DNA, but they also have different mRNAs. Consequently, our research findings could help scientists design medications that target mRNAs," said Dr. Theil.
EMBARGOED until: December 21, 2006 at 2 p.m. EST
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About Children's Hospital & Research Center Oakland
Children's Hospital & Research Center Oakland is a designated Level I pediatric trauma center and the largest pediatric critical care facility in the region. The hospital has 181 licensed beds and 166 hospital-based physicians in 31 specialties, more than two thousand five hundred employees, and an operating budget of $287 million. The hospital's research institute has an annual budget of $41 million with more than 300 basic and clinic investigators. Children's Hospital Oakland Research Institute (CHORI) has made significant progress in areas including pediatric obesity, cancers, sickle cell disease, AIDS/HIV, hemophilia and cystic fibrosis.
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