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University of Cincinnati Academic Health Center
Publish Date: 10/13/98
Media Contact: AHC Public Relations, (513) 558-4553
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UC Researcher's Findings Appear in National Academy of Sciences Journal

Cincinnati--A study conducted at the University of Cincinnati (UC) shows that a major step in programmed cell death may be dispensable. The research was conducted by Ming Xu, PhD, assistant professor of Cell Biology, at the UC College of Medicine along with researchers from the Howard Hughes Institute at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas and the Howard Hughes Institute at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine. It appears in the October 13 edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Programmed cell death or apoptosis is a fundamental, normal cell process. After a cell dies, a DNA-chopping enzyme complex digests the DNA inside the dead cell. Apoptosis is believed to play a role in the development of an individual. When this process becomes unregulated, it can lead to cancer or neurological disorders like Parkinsonís or Alzheimerís disease.

Researchers studied genetically engineered mice that lacked an important molecule needed to make the DNA-chopping enzyme complex. They discovered that even though the DNA inside the dead cells was not digested, the immune cells and the major organ systems in these mice appear to develop normally. The mice did not develop cancer or neurological disorders.

"These findings are significant because they challenge commonly accepted beliefs that the DNA-chopping enzyme complex is needed," says Xu. "Scientists now must determine if the enzyme complex has other functions in the body or if the complex is necessary."

The study began in May 1997 and was completed in June 1998. It was supported by the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine, the National Alliance for Research on Schizophrenia and Depression Young Investigatorís Award, the American Cancer Society, and the National Institutes of Health.

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