An obesity-associated protein was found to have a role in the development of leukemia, as well as in the drug response which could lead to more effective treatments for the illness. The research suggests that FTO, the protein which is generally associated with fat deposits and obesity, also has an essential role in promoting cancer.

Due to the fact that it regulates the expression of a series of genes through a RNA-alteration-based mechanism, the protein facilitates the reproduction of leukemia cells.

FTO Protein, Linked To Leukemia

The research, published Dec. 22, in the journal Cancer Cell, was led by Jianjun Chen, Ph.D., an associate professor in the Department of Cancer Biology at the University of Chicago College of Medicine.

In 2011, Dr. Chuan He, who is a co-senior author of the present research, made the first observation that FTO erases m6A methylation, the most impactful modificator in the RNAs. The implications of this discovery are potentially groundbreaking, as the scientific observation shows that the m6A modification can be reversed.

"Recent studies have shown that m6A modification in mRNAs or non-coding RNAs plays critical roles in virtually all major normal biological processes such as tissue development and stem cell self-renewal and differentiation," noted the press release.

As part of the research, the team of scientists documented 100 human cases of acute myeloid leukemia (AML), and compared them with a control group of nine people. They further discovered that the FTO protein was higher in different subjects who suffered from a wide array of leukemia subtypes. The increased levels of the protein were linked to the multiplication, as well as the survival of cancer cells, which also led to a higher chance to develop leukemia in animals.

Additionally, the animals who had high levels of this protein and developed leukemia, also did not respond to treatment, regardless of the therapeutic model that was administered to them.

Possible Direction For More Efficient Treatment

Last, but not least, there some genes, such as ASB2 and RARA, typically associated with a higher response rate to treatment, as they have been found to inhibit the disease. In the animals tested as part of the study, the animals had these genes suppressed, which contributed to the degree of severity of leukemia, facilitated by the higher amount of the FTO protein in their system.

Therefore, the study established a connection between the quantities in which the FTO protein is present in the systems and the suppression of the ASB2 and RARA genes, which further contributed to the severity of leukemia in the animal patients. The discovery suggests that this information could be employed in reversing the process and creating a more effective treatment for patients who suffer from leukemia.

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