Scientists Discover Male-Only Gene that Protects Against Leukemia

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Scientists discovered male-only gene that protects against leukemia, according to a report published on May 7, 2018.

Scientists found this gene only on the Y chromosome, which was so far thought to only carry genetic information that leads to an embryo developing as a male, rather than a female, fetus. The gene is found to offer an extra layer of protection against acute myeloid leukemia (AML). According to the researchers at the Wellcome Sanger Institute and the University of Cambridge, this development has changed the way the Y chromosome was viewed and this is expected to lead to new treatments.

Every year, around 2,600 people in the U.K. are being diagnosed with AML, an aggressive blood cancer that develops in cells of the bone marrow and leads to life-threatening infections and bleeding. Treatments for this condition are the same for decades now and only 20 per cent of the patients survived for five years after the diagnosis.

The X-chromosome gene UTX in human cells and in mice were studied by the research team to understand its role in AML. It was found that loss of the UTX fastens the development of AML. Furthermore, researchers also found that male mice that were lacking UTX were protected by UTY, a related gene on the Y chromosome from developing AML.

Dr. Alasdair Rankin, director of research at the charity Bloodwise, said, “This important research helps build a fuller picture of what goes wrong genetically as this highly aggressive leukemia develops. Understanding this process is key to developing targeted drugs for AML, allowing us to move away from grueling and often ineffective chemotherapy-based treatments.”

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