Two Epigenetic Targets Are More Effective Than One

Lysine-specific histone demethylase 1 (LSD1) via Wikimedia Commons

Epigenetics is a new and exciting territory to explore as we understand more about the role it plays in gene silencing and expression. Because epigenetic regulation of gene expression is caused by specific modification of histone proteins (e.g., methylation) that play a role in disease states like cancer, enzymes like histone deacetylases (HDACs) become viable drug targets. One drawback to inhibiting proteins that modify histones is even when selectively targeting HDACs, the effects can be far ranging with multiple HDAC-containing protein complexes found throughout the cell. These broad effects minimize the effectiveness of an inhibitor, caught between efficacy and toxicity. A recent article in Nature Communications explored how using a single compound to target two epigenetic enzymes was more effective than any individual inhibitor or combination of inhibitors. Continue reading

Investigating the Role of Hair Proteins in Fighting Cancer

Human Hair 40X Magnification.

Human Hair 40X Magnification. Taken at Strathclyde University Forensic Science Department by Edward Dowlman

Many scientists seek anticancer compounds derived from plants (e.g., black raspberry extract). What about something a bit closer to home: byproducts from humans? Markowicz et al. were interested in the effects that hair degradation products could have on cancer cells, specifically melanoma.

Hair from two donors, a gray-haired elderly man and a young brunette woman, were collected after a haircut and separately processed by activation in sodium hydroxide prior to digestion with pepsin, a protease that cleaves at the C-terminus of phenylalanine, leucine, tyrosine and tryptophan. The digested fragments were extracted, frozen and dried down. The remaining unsolubilized material was dried, ground and redigested with pepsin, yielding two samples of pepsin digests from each hair sample. The final pepsin digests were suspended in 70% ethanol. Continue reading

The Redhead’s Natural Defense Against Melanoma

A perfect day for writing

It seems fitting that, as I write this blog entry, I am soaking up a bit of sun on a dock on a small northern Wisconsin lake. I’ve deployed many of my normal defenses against the sun’s harmful rays, including a big floppy hat and plenty of sunscreen. Recently, I learned that, as a redhead, I have another defense—a cellular defense—against the dangerous results of ultraviolet light exposure: the very same genetic mutation in the MC1R gene that probably makes my hair red in the first place.

Continue reading