A significant advance in the understanding of a childhood cancer called Neuroblastoma has been made by scientists from the Smurfit Institute of Genetics at Trinity College Dublin. The TCD group led by Dr. Adrian Bracken and funded by Science Foundation Ireland, has just published their findings in the leading international journal, Developmental Cell.
Neuroblastoma is the most common cancer in children younger than two years. As its name suggests, Neuroblastoma is a cancer of special nerve cells called neuroblasts, which are found throughout the body. Normally, these immature cells grow and mature into functioning nerve cells. However, in Neuroblastoma, they fail to mature and become cancer cells instead.
This new research explored the function of CHD5. The CHD5 gene is deleted in children with the worst form of Neuroblastoma. Chris Egan, the lead author on the study, and a post-doctoral fellow in the laboratory of Dr Bracken, together with colleagues at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, showed that without CHD5, neuroblasts are incapable of maturing or “differentiating” to mature neurons.
Commenting on the study, Dr Adrian Bracken said: “Understanding the role of genes whose deletion or inactivation is associated with disease is central to designing intelligent therapeutic strategies. Our work has unravelled the normal function of the CHD5 gene, and suggests that its inactivation in neuroblastoma leads to an inability of these cells to correctly mature or differentiate. Our future work will assess the potential benefit of reactivating CHD5 in neuroblastoma cells which usually retain one silenced copy of this gene. We hope that this research will lead to new and improved treatments for children with this disease.”
For more information see: www.gen.tcd.ie/bracken. The full details of the paper are ‘Egan CM, Nyman U, Skotte J, Streubel G, Turner S, O’Connell DJ, Rraklli V, Dolan MJ, Chadderton N, Hansen K, Farrar GF, Helin K, Holmberg J, Bracken AP. CHD5 is required for neurogenesis and has a dual role in facilitating gene expression and Polycomb gene repression. Developmental Cell.In Press. 2013′ (August 12th, 2013).
Figure legend: The front cover of the August 12th issue of Developmental Cellfeatures work from the Bracken laboratory which demonstrates that the CHD5 protein is present in mature neurons (red), but not immature neuroblasts or neural stem cells (blue).