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Blind mole rats use junk DNA to trigger self-destruction of cancer cells


Key points from article :

Retrotransposons can move about the genome by copying themselves from RNA transcripts and reinserting into new locations.

Blind mole rats (Spalax spp.) use these pieces of so-called junk DNA to protect itself from cancer.

Blind mole rats can live 10 times as long as a similarly sized mouse.

Explained by animal’s natural resistance to cancer, mediated by initiation of cell death in rapidly proliferating precancerous cells.

Treating mole rat cells with antiretroviral drugs, which stop retrotransposons copying themselves, prevented cell death.

Boost in IFN-β production induced an innate immune signaling pathway necessary for concerted cell death.

In cultured human cancer cells, artificially lowering the level of the human DNA methyltransferase DNMT1 or boosting the level of retrotransposons could curtail proliferation.

Our cellular machinery could potentially be tweaked to treat cancers, says Vera Gorbunova, corresponding co-author.

Study by University of Rochester published in Nature Immunology.

Retrotransposons activate immune response against precancerous cells - may have implications in humans

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Scientific journal publishing the highest quality research in all areas of immunology


Private research university that grants undergraduate and graduate degrees, including doctoral and professional degrees


Co-director Rochester Aging Research Center.