Cancer markers could be present earlier than thought

6 August 2015

The location of a number of biomarkers for cancer and other conditions such as autism have been identified in the neural crest, a thin layer of cells present in human embryos.

Scientists from the Virginia Bioinformatics Institute looked at genetic structures called microsatellites, which are often dismissed as containing junk DNA. However, they were already known to contain genetic material connected to Fragile X and Huntingdon’s disease.

There are over one million microsatellites in the genome, but during cell reproduction it is possible for the genetic information to become muddled, which in turn can lead to the creation of cancerous cells.

The team were able to identify cancer-associated microsatellite loci (CAML) that are linked to brain cancers such as gliomas, medulloblastomas, and neuroblastomas.
It is hoped that this new understanding of the genetics of cancer will pave the way for innovative screening techniques and treatments for cancers, as well as offering new insights into their development.

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