From Outlook Magazine…
Large sections of the genome that were once referred to as “junk” DNA have been linked to human heart failure, according to research from Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.
So-called junk DNA was long thought to have no important role in heredity or disease because it doesn’t code for proteins. But emerging research in recent years has revealed that many of these sections of the genome produce RNA molecules that, despite not being proteins, still have important functions in the body. RNA is a close chemical cousin to DNA.
Molecules now associated with these sections of the genome are called noncoding RNAs. They come in a variety of forms, some more widely studied than others. Of these, about 90 percent are called long noncoding RNAs, and exploration of their roles in health and disease is just beginning.
In a recent issue of the journal Circulation, Washington University investigators report results from the first comprehensive analysis of all RNA molecules expressed in the human heart. The researchers studied nonfailing hearts and failing hearts before and after patients received pump support from left ventricular assist devices (LVAD). The LVADs increased each heart’s pumping capacity while patients waited for heart transplants.
“We took an unbiased approach to investigating which types of RNA might be linked to heart failure,” said senior author Jeanne M. Nerbonne, PhD, the Alumni Endowed Professor of Molecular Biology and Pharmacology. “We were surprised to find that long noncoding RNAs stood out. In fact, the field is evolving so rapidly that when we did a slightly earlier, similar investigation in mice, we didn’t even think to include long noncoding RNAs in the analysis.”
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