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Think BIG, Start SMALL: MicroRNAs and Breast Cancer

  • 12/4/2016 7:22:00 PM
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Think BIG, Start SMALL: MicroRNAs and Breast Cancer

Chelsea Goodenough, B.S.

The human body is capable of powerful things. When in prime condition, we are capable of adrenaline induced She-Hulk strength, and fighting the effect of zero gravity by walking on the moon. This, to most of us, is recognizable as disease, and is amongst us in the form of diabetes, heart disease, obesity, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) to name only a few. A disease that affects nearly 246,660 new people every year, is breast cancer, with an estimated 40,450 women to lose their life to this disease in the year 2016 alone (American Cancer Society, 2016). Given the suffering and financial burden of this disease, it is not surprising that we try to think big, fundraise for innovative approaches to prevent the invasion of breast cancer into the families of men and women in America. We think big, trying to categorize, to explain it, and understand it. But what if what we actually needed to do was start small, micro size small, and look into those own body's powerful ability to find the answer? Research is doing just that. Found in abundance, in many forms in many tissues within our body are small non-coding proteins called microRNA. Alone, they code for nothing, unlike their larger counterparts, messenger RNA (mRNA) which code for certain proteins to be made in our body. Although these microRNA may be small, science is telling us that they may be mighty too. These microRNAs have the ability to attach themselves to messenger RNAs and act as promoters or inhibitors of making a given protein. The can cause us to grow muscle, lose muscle, and help our body fight inflammation [17-21]. Some of these proteins, when in high concentrations, promote the development of breast cancer. However, when these microRNAs seek out the coding messenger RNA and bind to it, they prevent the messenger RNA from making that given protein. These microRNAs are found in vast quantities in our muscles; the same muscles that help us in and our of the car, move our legs when walking our dogs, and may even help us prevent breast cancer [27-37]. When we use these muscles, and we exercise, it is believed that these microRNA molecules are released into our system to seek our messenger RNAs coding for breast cancer promoting proteins and stop their production, ultimately leading to reducing the size and amount of tumorigenic cells. Research efforts continue to investigate the role these microRNAs have to cell signaling and inducing breast cancer cell death, to one day translate them into therapeutic interventions. So it seems that in finding a cure for breast caner, what we call the big picture, we may actually have to start small. Micro size small.





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