Scientists at the Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute said the same gene the regulates the body’s sleep cycle could be manipulated to halt the progress of a deadly brain cancer.
A team led by Zhi Sheng found that the gene associated with circadian rhythms, which regulate the body’s biological clock, are barely detected in glia brain cells, but are plentiful in glioblastoma, the type of malignant tumor the recently killed Sen. John McCain.
Glioblastomas are hard to treat. While surgeons can remove the primary tumor, errant cells travel elsewhere in the brain and continue to grow. Most patients die within two years.
Sheng’s team found when they blocked an enzyme produced by the sleep-rhythm gene in mice, the glioblastoma stopped growing.
“Blocking this gene effectively killed cancer stem cells,” Sheng said in a news release.
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Their work was published Tuesday in Scientific Reports, which is an online, open-access journal published by Nature that allows for quick peer review of research.