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New enzyme discovered that contributes to leukemia proliferation

Category: Leukemia and WBC disorders

A recent study discovered that an enzyme known as adenosine deaminase (ADAR1) encourages the cloning process of certain stem cells that promote chronic myeloid leukemia (CML) to metastasize.

Research investigators from the United States, Canada and Italy noted in their report, which was published in the journal PNAS, that inflammation stimulates the activity of ADAR1 . While ADAR1 is usually beneficial for stem cells, it can encourage RNA to be misspliced and subsequently cause malignant CML stem cells to become resistant.

While new CML treatments are consistently being developed, resistant stem cells retain the ability to regenerate through a process known as self-renewal that allows the disease to spread throughout the body. Study author Catriona H. M. Jamieson, M.D., Ph.D., an associate professor of medicine at University of California San Diego, noted that the findings have important implications for treatment methods that would involve blocking the leukemia cells from getting access to the ADAR1 enzymes.

"ADAR1 is an enzyme that we may be able to specifically target with a small molecule inhibitor, an approach we have already used effectively with other inhibitors," said Jamieson. "If we can block the capacity of leukemia stem cells to use ADAR1, if we can knock down that pathway, maybe we can put stem cells back on the right track and stop malignant cloning."

Demographics and symptoms
According to the researchers, CML usually progresses slowly and is not detected until its later stages, when there is a sudden influx of malignant cells in the patient. The disease is usually diagnosed in older people (median age 66 years old).

Some symptoms of CML include bleeding easily, feeling tired, frequent infections, loss of appetite, a pain below the ribs and excessive sweating during the night, reports the Mayo Clinic. The source recommends that people who display these symptoms should contact a physician because treatment is more effective if it's detected early.

Some risk factors of the disease include being older, being a male and radiation exposure or radiation therapy due to cancer. Some complications that can arise, according to the Mayo Clinic, include fatigue, excessive bleeding, chronic pain, enlarged spleen, stroke, excessive blood clotting, increased risk of infection due to the increased number of white blood cells and death if a patient does not receive treatment or the treatment is ineffective.

To diagnose the disorder, a physician may conduct a physical exam, a blood test and a bone marrow test.


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