The Power of One

Researchers led by Dr. Ashok Aiyar at the Louisiana State University Health Center (LSUHC) have uncovered the gene that is responsible for abnormal cell proliferation in cancers resulting from the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV). The Epstein-Barr virus, which originates from the Herpes family of viruses, is common and most of the human population will contract the virus at some point in their lives. In fact, at least 95% of adults in the U.S. between the ages of 35-40 have contracted the virus.

"The Epstein-Barr virus is closely associated with many human cancers such as Burkitt's lymphoma, Hodgkin's lymphoma, AIDS-related lymphomas, post-transplant lymphoproliferative disease, cancers of the nose and throat, and stomach cancer. In many of these malignancies, proteins made by EBV are necessary for tumor cells to grow indiscriminately." (ScienceDaily, June 17, 2009)

The LSUHC researchers found a potential mechanism for the regulation of abnormal cell growth by investigating the protein, EBNA-1. The researchers found that oxidative stress causes changes in the EBNA-1 protein leading to the activation of EBV genes, which once activated, lead to indiscriminate cell growth. To overcome this, the researchers employed therapeutic agents to regulate the levels of oxidative stress. Their in vitro studies highlight one such therapeutic agent, vitamin K, which is able to regulate the levels of oxidative stress in the cells and inactivate the EBNA-1 protein. This protein inactivation blocks EBV gene expression thus preventing abnormal cell proliferation. This research could be life altering for many patients who suffer from EBV-related cancers. Aiyar and his team hope that the "research will lead to new ways of controlling EBV-associated diseases in humans".

Sources:

"Single Gene Found To Control Growth of Some Cancers" http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/06/090612092739.htm

"Epstein-Barr Virus" Wikipedia, 2009.

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