miR-328 binds directly to a specific protein, allowing blood cells to mature.

Scientists believe that miRNA may play a critical role in the progression of chronic myeloid leukemia (CML) from its more treatable chronic phase to blast crisis by directly controlling a protein’s function.

The researchers say that for the first time they found that the miRNA molecules sometimes bind directly with proteins and affect their function.

The investigators found that miR-328 binds with a protein that in blast phase CML prevents immature blood cells from maturing.

“We believe that miR-328 acts as a decoy molecule that normally ties up the protein, which enables the white blood cells to mature as they should,” says principal investigator, Danilo Perrotti, M.D., Ph.D., assistant professor of molecular virology, immunology, and medical genetics and a researcher with the Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center.

During progression from chronic-phase to blast-crisis CML, however, the level of miR-328 falls, allowing the protein to be extremely active. This keeps the progenitor white blood cells from maturing, thus favoring blast-crisis conditions.

The findings were presented at the 2007 annual meeting of the American Society of Hematology.

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