Cancer-causing virus HTLV-1 changes DNA loops to 'affect tens of thousands of genes'
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A human virus that causes a rare form of leukaemia increases the risk of disease by changing the way DNA loops inside our cells.

The research, published in the journal eLife, shows that the human leukaemia virus (HTLV-1) acts at a large number of sites across the human genome, disrupting the regulation of tens of thousands of genes.

According to the team, from Imperial College London and The European Bioinformatics Institute (EMBL-EBI), the findings show that the HTLV-1 changes the folding pattern of human DNA in infected cells. They explain that the resulting disruption of gene function increases the risk of leukaemia.

HTLV-1 is thought to infect more than 10 million people around the world. The virus can be transmitted through unprotected sex, blood transfusions, and from mother to baby via breast milk.

People can carry the virus for decades without symptoms, and 90 per cent of people may be unaware they are carrying it at all. However, an estimated 5-10 per cent of those infected may go on to develop an aggressive form of leukaemia or a progressive paralytic disease.

In the latest study, researchers looked at how HTLV-1 interacts with human DNA when it infects a host,

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