In a new study conducted by researchers from Lund University, the Max Planck Institute for Molecular Genetics, and Karolinska Institutet, they found that the activation of certain transposons or "jumping genes" in our genome could lead to the development of certain diseases.
Usually these transposons are silenced by a process called DNA methylation. When the process is disrupted, it could activate these transposons which would affect the genes that help in the development of nerve cells. The researchers are also looking into seeing how this disruption would affect cancer cells.
“Sometimes, however, DNA methylation is disrupted and studies have shown that this is significant in certain cancer tumours and in some neuropsychiatric diseases. DNA methylation is used as a target for therapy in certain cancer types, such as leukaemia, but we still lack knowledge about why this is effective and why it only works for certain types of cancer”, says Johan Jakobsson, professor at Lund University and leader of the study, which also included researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Molecular Genetics and Karolinska Institutet.
In fact, we know very little about the role of transposons in our DNA. One theory held by the researchers in Lund is that DNA methylation silences the parts of the genome that are not used, but only now has it been possible to study what happens when this process is removed from human cells.
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