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Researchers Find New Leukemia Genes using CRISPR Technology

Monday, April 20, 2020

Using the most advanced tools available, scientists discovered several novel genes not known to be involved in blood cancers, and used the powerful new data to paint a clearer map for how aggressive leukemia arises and grows, according to an article published in Nature Cancer.

Jeevisha Bajaj, Ph.D., assistant professor of Biomedical Genetics at the University of Rochester Medical Center and a researcher at the Wilmot Cancer Institute, is the lead author of the study. Bajaj conducted the research while she was a project scientist in the laboratory of Tannishtha Reya Ph.D., professor of Pharmacology and Medicine at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine, and senior author of the study.

The paper points to several significant discoveries:

  • It unveiled a new gene, Staufen 2 (Stau2), that regulates and drives the molecular programs for leukemia stem cells, the cells responsible for propagating the disease and for therapy resistance. Stau2 has been previously studied in the brain and nervous system but until now was not known to have a role in cancer.
  • The team used a tool known as CRISPR, which allows scientists to edit DNA in cells and focus on large groups of genes active in a particular disease - in this case, myeloid leukemias. The paper showed that CRISPR can identify an entire class of gene mediators for leukemia, which will aid future research.
  • The team also tested its hypothesis in a mouse model designed to mimic the human experience with leukemia, as opposed to conducting studies solely in cell cultures, as several other groups had previously done.
Read More: Researchers Find New Leukemia Genes using CRISPR Technology