Tuesday, July 06, 2010
ROCHESTER, Minn. — Thousands of research studies are under way to better understand microRNA — short for micro ribonucleic acid. These tiny genetic strands may play a role in identifying, treating and possibly preventing many diseases, according to the July issue of Mayo Clinic Health Letter.
MicroRNA acts like a switch that changes cell behavior. Different microRNAs are in each tissue of the body. For instance, what makes liver cells unique is, in part, their expression of a particular microRNA that influences which protein is produced.
About 1,000 distinct human microRNAs have been identified. Each can influence and regulate expression of hundreds of genes that determine a major change for the cell, such as whether it lives or dies, multiplies rapidly or develops into bone, muscle or another type of cell.
MicroRNA is a relatively new discovery. Scientists have been aware of its role for about 20 years, and there is still much to be learned. Scientists hope that microRNA research might eventually lead to improved diagnosis, more accurate predictions of disease outcomes and new treatment and medication options with fewer side effects.
Diseases being studied include:
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