‘Christmas tree’ protein protects from gastric cancer

October 14th, 2008 - 12:41 pm ICT by IANS  

Sydney, Oct 14 (IANS) Scientists in Australia have unearthed evidence that a protein likened to a Christmas tree protects against gastric cancer and ulcers. The protein, called MUC1, coats the stomach lining and presents a protective barrier against bacterial infection by Helicobacter or H pylori known to cause ulcers and cancers in the stomach.

The research builds on other studies showing that people with a shorter version of the gene which produces the MUC1 protein are at a greater risk of gastric disease.

The new findings explain the protective action of MUC1 and why the length of its parent gene is so important, according to a Melbourne University release.

Scientists at the Melbourne University’s faculty of veterinary science worked on the project in partnership with colleagues at the Brisbane-based Mater Medical Research Institute (MMRI).

Phil Sutton, associate professor and head of the university’s immunology and mucosal pathogens research group, said the MUC1 protein resembles a Christmas tree.

“It is a very long molecule coated with lots of sugars like pine needles”. He said it was this length that was critical in the success, or otherwise, of the protein protecting the lining of the stomach from infection by the Helicobacter bacteria.

“When Helicobacter bacteria enter the stomach and are trying to infect, some of them stick to the surface of the stomach, which is lined with the MUC1 protein. What our work suggests is that when the body detects the bacteria sticking onto the MUC1 protein, it chops the protein off.”

Related Stories

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Posted in World |