Common Cancer Gene Sends Death Order to Tiny Killer, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine Study Finds  
6/1/2007 3:21:57 AM

Scientists at Johns Hopkins have discovered one way the p53 gene does what it's known for-stopping the colon cancer cells. Their report will be published in the June 8 issue of Molecular Cell. The research team identified a tiny bit of genetic code, a microRNA called miR-34a that participates in p53's uncanny ability to kill cells likely to become malignant because of damaged genes in their nuclei. MicroRNAs are small chains of ribonucleic acid (RNA) made by the same machinery that produces other types of RNA in the cell, such as the messenger RNAs that carry the instructions to make proteins. Once produced, microRNAs stick to messenger RNAs and, like crumpled paper jammed in a copy machine, prevent proteins from being made.