Saturday, March 18, 2017

Broccoli mystery solved?

Photo courtesy of Oregon State University
"Eat your broccoli." It is a maternal edict that is getting support from researchers looking into why broccoli seems to be good for us.

The compound found in abundance in broccoli is called sulforaphane, a compound known to help prevent prostate cancer, but how it does that has remained a mystery until now. Researchers at Oregon State University have found that sulforphane, suppresses the production of a particular piece of genetic material that is found at high levels in prostate cancer.

The genetic material is a long piece of RNA that had previously been thought to be "junk DNA" or more scientifically speaking, long, non-coding RNAs, which scientists thought played no particular role in the process of making proteins from genes. 

But a growing body of evidence shows that these lncRNAs, as they are called for short, actually play a crucial role in cell biology, often controlling what genes are turned on, or activated.

In the study published in the April 2017 Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry the researchers showed that one of these lncRNAs, called LINCO1116, is present in high levels in prostate cancer cells grown in the laboratory, and the application of sulforaphane significantly reduced the amount of LINCO1116.

The impact of diet on lncRNA expression has been largely unknown until now, the researchers said. In this study, they identified a four-fold decrease in the ability of prostate cancer cells to form tumors when LINC01116 was disrupted.The study shows that lncRNAs may be a promising new target for developing cancer treatments.

“We showed that treatment with sulforaphane could normalize the levels of this lncRNA,” Laura Beaver, a research associate in the Linus Pauling Institute and lead author on the study said in a press release. “This may relate to more than just cancer prevention. It would be of significant value if we could develop methods to greatly slow the progress of cancer, help keep it from becoming invasive.”

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