Growing insights about a significant, yet poorly understood, part of the genome - the so-called "dark matter of DNA" -- have fundamentally changed the way scientists approach the study of diseases. The human genome contains approximately 20,000 protein-coding genes, which represent less than 2 percent of the total total genomic DNA. An estimeated 70 percent of the genome is transcribed into non-coding RNA. [BQ Editor’s Note: There are many categories of non-coding RNAs, including a large, diverse group of RNA segments longer than 200 base pairs called long non-coding RNAs (lncRNAs), and other smaller segments that include miRNAs, snRNAs, snoRNAs, scaRNAs, gRNAs, SL RNAs, piRNAs, siRNAs, tasiRNAs, and rasiRNAs.] Nevertheless, a systematic characterization of these non-coding RNA segments, including the lncRNAs, and their alterations in human cancer, is still lacking. Most studies of genomic alterations in cancer have focused on the miniscule portion of the human genome that encodes protein. An international team, led by researchers at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania (Penn), has changed that, with respect to lncRNAs, with new research results published in the October 12, 2015 issue of Cancer Cell. The article is titled “Comprehensive Genomic Characterization of Long Non-Coding RNAs Across Human Cancers.” A team led by Lin Zhang, M.D., the Harry Fields Associate Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology, and Chi V. Dang, M.D., Ph.D., Director of the Abramson Cancer Center, at Penn, has mined these RNA sequences more fully to identify non-protein-coding segments whose expression is linked to 13 different types of cancer. Dr. Zhang first took this approach in 2014 to identify targets for ovarian cancer. Both of these studies have been supported by the Basser Center for BRCA at Penn.
Login Or Register To Read Full Story