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Discovery in the Cellular Defense System to Reduce Toxicity

October 29, 2012

Researchers at MIT have uncovered a cellular response mechanism to toxic materials, which may shed light on therapeutic applications.

Drug toxicity continues to be a problem for patients taking pharmaceuticals nationwide. A new study conducted at MIT and the University of Albany shows that in addition to cell death, or apoptosis, there exists a response to toxic elements that may hold promise for reducing damage caused by drugs.

Dr. Peter Dedon, professor of biological engineering at MIT, and his colleagues have demonstrated that the presence of toxins and other stimuli, such as nutrients and hormones, have the ability to alter a cell's protein-creating mechanisms. When a cell is confronted by a toxic element, it shifts its transfer RNA (tRNA) mechanism from regular cell activity to the rapid production of proteins that counteract toxicity.

Our understanding of this emergency mechanism holds some treatment applications. One application is reducing the toxicity of chemotherapy, which is known to inadvertently damage healthy cells and tumor cells. Reprogramming cellular modifications to deal with the toxicity of cancer treatments, for example, could improve the quality of life of cancer patients.

Though it is unclear when and how the discovery will translate to therapeutic purposes, understanding this natural process of the body, according to Kelsey Kaustinen from Drug Discovery News, is "encouraging in its potential" to reduce unwanted effects of pharmaceuticals.

Click here for the full article on Drug Discovery News.

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