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Women in Science also need Genomic integrity!

posted Oct 4, 2014, 12:52 AM by Rachel Aronoff   [ updated Oct 5, 2014, 6:12 AM ]
Over 160 women attended a recent ladies luncheon last week in Montreux for the third annual Women in Science event, bringing together female scientists (including RA, this association's founder and president, who was honoured to join in for this event) and interested and influential women.  The speaker, whose research on melanoma received funding by the group, which is mainly sponsored by the University of Lausanne, but includes many generous industrial sponsors, gave a very nice bilingual presentation, comparing skin repair and skin cancer and describing some factors her lab has identified that regulate skin cell growth and migration.  

Interestingly, her talk would have benefited from a more general knowledge of the 'big picture' idea AGiR! hopes to encourage, the idea of genomic integrity as all the molecular genetic details in the cell.  This is because, while her simplified molecular introduction described DNA and proteins nicely as the 'plan' and the 'workers' in a cell, the new exciting factor their lab is investigating turns out to be a microRNA*!  

As so many are finding RNA molecules (already proposed in the 80s as the origin of all life, since they can both carry genetic information and perform enzymatic functions) to be central in cells, not only to gene expression but to the establishment and maintenance of epigenetic 'marks' on chromosomes and the maintenance of correct DNA sequences (repair of damage), this illustrates how the idea of genomic integrity really needs to catch on.  

Maybe you can help?  Talk to your friends about these issues and take care of yourself!


*and they have also identified at least 2 important protein targets whose expression this microRNA regulates...  Potentially they will find ways to treat melanomas, which the audience at this luncheon learned are actually the minority among skin cancers (just 10%) but account for 80% of mortality! 
RNA molecules, with one more oxygen than DNA, are both more reactive and fragile than double-stranded DNA molecules, but as already described for chromatin regulation, in cancer networks and even for cognition, microRNAs may really be running the show in the cell.