Scientists find genetic pathway to disease, ageing

February 21st, 2008 - 12:22 pm ICT by admin  

New York, Feb 21 (IANS) Like rust, oxidative stress chips away at healthy cells and contributes to a host of medical problems such as Alzheimer’s, heart disease, stroke and cancer, besides ageing. But now a team of University of Wisconsin-Madison scientists have reported the discovery of a gene pathway that protects cells from the oxidative process.

A key enzyme in the new pathway, dubbed Star-PAP by its Wisconsin discoverers, regulates the production of a relatively small number of proteins and enzymes in cells, an article in the latest issue of the journal Nature says.

The Wisconsin group found the pathway contains a genetic “on-off” switch for a key protein known as heme oxygenase-1, an agent that protects cells from oxidative stress.

The finding is important because it could some day enable genetic manipulation or the development of novel drugs to thwart disease.

Oxidative stress occurs when the body’s ability to neutralise highly toxic chemicals known as free radicals is overtaxed. They can damage DNA and other molecules essential for the health of a cell.

The discovery of the gene pathway and specific enzymes that influence the process of oxidative stress have clear clinical relevance, the researchers said. It could potentially be manipulated to mitigate the damage oxygen does to cells.

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