09 Mar Third Wave co-founder shoots for small target in latest project
Madison, Wis. — Researchers led by James Dahlberg, a founder of Madison-based bioscience company Third Wave Technologies, have found that a super-small genetic element may play a critical role in the development of certain types of cancer.
Teams led by Dahlberg and collaborator Wayne Tam at the Joan and Sanford I. Weill Medical College of Cornell University reported this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) that increased levels of a particular microRNA, known as miR-155, may be diagnostic of certain types of human cancer, particularly lymphomas.
MicroRNAs, dubbed such because they are just 22 nucleotides long, have generated quite a buzz in the scientific community for their ubiquity among plant and animal cells.
In particular, the elevated presence of the miR-155 molecule may help clinicians distinguish between types of lymphoma that have different outcomes.
Dahlberg, also a professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison Medical School, said there are no immediate plans to commercialize the discovery through Third Wave, which provides advanced research and molecular diagnostic products for the health care industry. An analysis tool from Third Wave that he helped to create will be quite helpful in his research, though. For now, he has two main goals going forward with his work on miR-155.
“First of all, what we want to do is collect more samples and get better data,” Dahlberg said. “There are two areas where we’re going: One is to validate the approach more with the 155, looking at its level in various kinds of lymphoma. The Third Wave assay is really good for that, because it’s ideally situated for doing analyses of multiple samples on the same target. It’s able to analyze very small amounts of material, the amounts that you can get from a tissue biopsy for instance. That’s why it’s important to have this because the other assays that are out there just require too much material. Third Wave is likely to be involved just because of that.”
“Another [goal] is to determine just what the intracellular target is, and this is a more basic science kind of thing,” he added. “How is it actually affecting the cells, and what genes are turned off by having a lot of this RNA?”
Cells have several hundred different kinds of microRNA. Normally, miR-155 is present in about 200 copies per cell, but it was found to rise to more than 10,000 in some of the lymphomas analyzed in this study, a UW-Madison release said.