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MicroRNA – A potential tool to evade cancer

Dr. Paromita Banerjee

Small non-coding RNA molecules called microRNAs (miRNAs) are essential for controlling the expression of genes. Recent studies have demonstrated that miRNAs play a role in a variety of biological processes, such as cell division, proliferation, and death. Additionally, they contribute to the emergence of several illnesses, including cancer, heart disease, and neurological disorders. Currently, researchers are looking into the potential of miRNAs as therapeutic targets and diagnostic markers. It has been discovered to play a crucial part in the onset and spread of cancer. Depending on the particular miRNA and the type of cancer, studies have revealed that miRNAs can function as either tumour suppressors or oncogenes. Some miRNAs can advance cancer by activating genes or by silencing genes that prevent cell proliferation. By preventing the expression of oncogenes or encouraging the expression of tumour suppressor genes, other miRNAs can function as tumour suppressors. By functioning as tumour suppressors and preventing the development and spread of cancer cells, microRNAs (miRNAs) can aid in the prevention of cancer in a variety of ways.

One-way miRNAs can act as tumor suppressors is by inhibiting the expression of oncogenes, which are genes that promote cell growth and proliferation. Some miRNAs can bind to the 3′ untranslated regions (3′ UTRs) of oncogenes and prevent the translation of their mRNA, thus inhibiting the expression of the oncogene and the growth of the cancer cells. By encouraging the expression of tumour suppressor genes, which are genes that prevent cell growth and proliferation, miRNAs can also function as tumour suppressors. Some miRNAs can attach to the tumour suppressor genes’ 3′ UTRs and improve their translation, raising the tumour suppressor gene’s expression and reducing the development of cancer cells.

By encouraging apoptosis, which is the cancer cells’ planned cell death, miRNAs can also prevent cancer. Some miRNAs can promote the translation of apoptosis-related genes by binding to their 3′ UTRs and causing the death of cancer cells. Furthermore, miRNAs can prevent cancer by preventing angiogenesis, which is the growth of new blood vessels that cancer cells require to survive and proliferate. Some miRNAs have the ability to bind to the 3′ UTRs of genes that support angiogenesis and stop their translation, so preventing the development of new blood vessels and the expansion of cancer cells.

Many research has been focused on identifying specific miRNAs that are involved in cancer and investigating their potential as diagnostic markers and therapeutic targets. For example, miRNA-21 has been found to be overexpressed in a variety of cancers, and targeting this miRNA with specific inhibitors has been shown to inhibit cancer cell growth. Similarly, miRNA-34a has been found to be downregulated in many cancers and its restoration has been shown to inhibit cancer cell proliferation.  Therefore, the knowledge of miRNA and its role in cancer biology could lead to the development of new diagnostic markers and therapeutic strategies for the treatment of cancer.

Thus, by regulating the expression of genes that promote and inhibit cancer, miRNAs can function as an effective natural defence mechanism against the disease.

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