The Korean Wave in Medical Research: New Breakthroughs in Customized Treatment for Cancer and Other Incurable Diseases

by Chi Sung-wook ,  Samsung Hospital | 2012-05-04

A Korean medical scientist became the first in the world to discover that microRNAs, short ribonucleic acid molecules closely associated with the onset of cancer, diabetes, and degenerative brain diseases, bind to and regulate genes in forms far more varied than previously believed. This breakthrough was featured by the online journal Nature Structural and Molecular Biology (IF: 12.273), a sister publication of the world-renowned science journal Nature, on February 13.

Professor Chi’s team from the Samsung Advanced Institute for Health Sciences and Technology, SKKU joined hands with The Rockefeller University and the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory for this project, with Professor Chi playing the key role of the first author and the corresponding author.

According to this discovery, when microRNAs bind to mRNAs, which communicate the order for protein synthesis, to control the production of protein in genes, the former uplifts the non-complementary parts of the latter and seeks the complementary parts for binding. Until now, it was believed that microRNAs bind only to mRNAs in a manner perfectly complementary to the six terminal base sequences.

This finding proves that microRNAs regulate more mRNAs than those only with complementary base sequences. Also, according to the analysis of the cerebral cortex and cervical cancer cells of mice, it was found that such mRNAs amount to approximately 20 percent of microRNA-regulated mRNAs.

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