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Advancing Cancer Knowledge Through Garden Weeds?

Hard to believe that a common weed could give scientists advanced information about aging and cancer development. But it can, according to a team led by scientists from Texas A&M University and the University of Cincinnati.

Arabidopsis, a plant found throughout the world, exhibits a new set of essential telomere proteins. Located at each end of a chromosome and composed of DNA and protein, the main function of telomeres is to protect the ends of the chromosome, but they also play a key role in cell division and, researchers believe, cellular lifespan.

After finding these telomeres in the plant, the multi-institutional team then identified the human counterpart, a discovery that could be beneficial in understanding human cancers and cellular aging. Their work is published in the current issue of the journal "Molecular Cell" and was funded by the National Institutes of Health.

This finding could pave the way for several new lines of study. "At the very least, it will give us a better understanding of the fundamental composition of telomeres and how they function," notes Dorothy Shippen, professor of biophysics and biochemistry at Texas A&M. Another researcher adds, "It could also give us new insight into how damaged telomeres block cell division." And the more we understand about cell division as it relates to cancer, the better.

The Arabidopsis plant is found worldwide and is related to the radish, cabbage and mustard plant family. Because of its genetic makeup, it has been used for decades as a model organism for studies in the cellular and molecular biology of flowering plants.

 

A full report can be found at Science Daily.

October 30, 2009