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Scientists Discover New Cellular Structures

"GW bodies" seem to be key to gene regulation, researchers say

WEDNESDAY, Dec. 7, 2005 (HealthDay News) -- Researchers say they've identified tiny structures that may prepare the groundwork for how new cells form and function.

These cellular structures, called GW bodies, play an important role in gene regulation (RNA interference), according to a team from the University of Florida, Gainesville. The discovery marks a major shift in the understanding of cell biology, and could aid the development of treatments for cancer and autoimmune diseases. It might also improve gene therapy, the researchers say.

GW bodies are located in the jelly-like cytoplasm that surrounds the nucleus, and appear to help regulate genetic material called microRNA. MicroRNA typically switch genes off to control cell reproduction and development, but the Florida team found this process functioned poorly when GW bodies were absent.

The study appears in the online issue of Nature Cell Biology.

"The significance of our study is that it is one of the first to stress the importance of this pathway with respect to cell biology by demonstrating that the specific micro-environments of the GW bodies within the cell appear to be crucial for the proper functioning of the RNA interference process," Andrew Jakymiw, a postdoctoral associate in the department of oral biology, said in a prepared statement.

"This RNA interference pathway is revolutionizing the way people do research and potentially the way people may apply therapies," Jakymiw said.

More information

The Rockefeller University provides a journey into the cell.

SOURCE: University of Florida, news release, December 2005
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