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Blood bounces back from chemotherapy

Medicine@Yale, 2012 - Nov Dec

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Healthy blood cells take a beating during chemotherapy. New work by Yale researchers suggests a strategy to help repair the damage.

A team led by Jun Lu, Ph.D., assistant professor of genetics, scanned a library of molecules known as microRNAs (miRNAs) to see if any affected the recovery of bone marrow cells injured by the cancer drug 5-fluorouracil. One, called miR-150, stood out: cells that had extra miR-150 recovered slowly, and cells that completely lacked miR-150 recovered the fastest.

miRNAs are short stretches of genetic material that bind to messenger RNA (mRNA), blocking the cell from making protein coded in that mRNA. Lu and colleagues discovered that miR-150 binds to the mRNA for a gene called c-myb, and if the group shut down c-myb through other means, they could partially replicate the slowed recovery seen in cells with high levels of miR-150.

The study, published October 25 in Cell Reports, is the first to use a miRNA screen in living mice to study an active physiological process, and the first to implicate a miRNA in the recovery of bone marrow cells after chemotherapy.