Researchers from Lund University have discovered that a fetal program can protect against acute myeloid leukaemia (AML). During the fetal stage, cell programs run that are critical to the development of the fetus. The researchers used an experimental mouse model to study how one such program, consisting of RNA-binding protein LIN28, which regulates other genes and is normally only expressed during fetal development and disappears shortly after birth, has a strong prophylactic effect against AML.
The study, which was published in the scientific journal Cell Reports, revealed that when the researchers added the LIN28 cell program to adult mice, over half of them did not develop AML. The research model enabled the scientists to follow the development from the first mutation until the disease was established, something that is impossible to do in humans. The researchers could see that the molecular fetal cell program protected against AML in mice by colliding with the mechanism that drives AML, which might explain why leukaemia is rare in newborns.
The researchers first examined samples from a large number of patients diagnosed with AML, 98 per cent of whom turned out to have no expression of LIN28 whatsoever. In those who did, the level was very low. To understand more about what happens when LIN28 is activated, the researchers then carried out more in-depth molecular and functional studies using their animal model.
David Bryder, professor of experimental haematology at Lund University, noted that AML is the result of various cell mutations, but the researchers have discovered that LIN28 has a strong prophylactic effect. Given the robust effect they have demonstrated, it will be interesting to study whether the fetal cell program can be used to prevent disease later in life, although one should be aware that it remains to be seen how to reactive such a program in human cells.
The study has provided new insights into fetal development, which could be used to prevent the development of AML later in life. However, further research is necessary to determine the practical applications of the findings for humans. AML is a serious condition that affects many people, and these new insights could have a significant impact on the treatment and prevention of the disease.
Other sources have noted that AML is a type of cancer that affects the blood and bone marrow, causing abnormal white blood cells to form. The disease progresses rapidly, with symptoms including fatigue, fever, and easy bleeding or bruising. AML is most common in older adults, with approximately 20,000 new cases diagnosed each year in the United States. The discovery of a fetal program that appears to protect against AML could be a significant breakthrough in the prevention and treatment of the disease, potentially leading to new treatment options for those who are affected.
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