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Histones & Cancer

How are histones and cancer related?

Electron Microscope Image of Histones
"Beads on a String" Model of Histones

Certainly, research of histones and cancer treatment were originally separate. Without the prior knowledge of how histones function in the cell cycle, there would be no obvious connection between histones and cancer treatment.

The role of histones in cancer is one of the factors that scientists are looking at for creating new forms of cancer treatment. Specifically, the "shredding" of histone "recipes" could be inhibited by mutating and controlling those command proteins. Recall that when the command proteins are mutated, they do not send the signal to the SLBP "shredder" to get rid of the instructions for making histones. Therefore, if histones continue to be produced and kill the cell, then this same technique can be used by scientists to cause cell death in cells that contain the mutant gene.

In order to strategically kill cells, a mutant gene would have to be created using molecular cloning. This mutation could not occur to just any gene. Scientists would have to mutate a gene that affects cellular regulation, like the command proteins (which send the instructions) or SLBP (which does the actual "shredding" of histone instructions.

If the mutant was successful and caused cells to basically kill themselves, this same mutant could be introduced into cancerous tumor cells, which would (theoretically) kill themselves and shrink the tumor. This would allow an individual's own cells to serve as a cancer treatment.

Check out these animations comparing normal cancer tumor growth and tumor growth when the mutant histone gene is added to the cells of the tumor!

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Cancerous Tumor to which the mutated command protein gene (created via cloning) is added:

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