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Philadelphia Researchers Uncover 3,400 New miRNA Locations in the Human Genome

MicroRNA (miRNA) play an important role in controlling different processes that occur in cells through gene regulation. These small molecules are able to regulate many cellular processes by reducing target amounts in the cells. There are more than 1,900 locations in the human genome that are known to produce these miRNA molecules.

by Laura Braden
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Thomas Jefferson UniversityBiotechnology Calendar, Inc.Bioresearchers at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia recently uncovered 3,400 new locations in the human genome that also produce miRNA molecules, offering up more options for further research into the relationship between miRNA and disease. 

Isidore Rigoutsos, Ph.D., lead researcher on this project and a professor at Thomas Jefferson University explained that “our findings effectively triple the number of miRNA-generating loci that are now known. This new collection will help researchers gain insights into the multiple roles that miRNAs play in various tissues and diseases.”

Through studying a collection of RNA from 13 different tissues from the blood, pancreas, brain, and other organs from numerous people - both healthy and unhealthy - the Thomas Jefferson research team was able to uncover nearly 3,400 new locations that produce miRNA. Of these locations they learned that 45% of the new miRNA molecules were associated with Argonaute, a protein member associated with the regulatory complex that is involved in the interaction between miRNA and different targets. By associating these new miRNA with the Argonaute, the researchers were able to tell that the miRNA play a role in gene regulation. 

Along with the 45% associated with the Argonaute, 56.7% of the new molecules were found to be specific to humans, and 94.4% are specific only to primates. The specificity of these molecules tells researchers that they are involved in certain molecular events that only occur in specific tissues.

Further research could lead to these molecules being used as new disease biomarkers in specific tissues, and can help researchers better understand certain diseases. 

Thomas Jefferson University is a leading research institution in the state of Pennsylvania in terms of the amount of funding researchers receive, as well as the quality of research produced. In the 2014 fiscal year, Thomas Jefferson received more than $89 million in funding from the NIH to support research and help establish new research buildings.

Current funding includes:  

  • The National Cancer Institute awarded Thomas Jefferson a $2.7 million grant for funding to support the cancer research activities of the Kimmel Cancer Center (KCC), in order to increase the survival and quality of life of cancer patients by translating basic research discoveries into new strategies to prevent, diagnose, monitor and cure human cancer.  
  • The NIH awarded Thomas Jefferson University a five-year, $2.6 million grant to study noninvasive imaging methods to stage and detect prostate cancer.
  • Thomas Jefferson University received a four-year, $2.5 million grant from the NIH to study cancer gene activation in lung cancer.

Biotechnology Calendar, Inc. holds an annual BioResearch Product Faire™ at Thomas Jefferson University that gives lab supply companies the opportunity to meet face-to-face with life science researchers on campus at this highly funded institution. The 6th Annual BioResearch Product Faire™ Event at Thomas Jefferson University will be held on Wednesday, May 6, 2015.