This week is Brain Awareness Week (BAW), an annual observance dedicated to raising public awareness about the progress and benefits of brain research. Coordinated by the Dana Alliance for Brain Initiatives and the European Dana Alliance for the Brain, every March, BAW unites the efforts of partner organizations around the world in a week-long celebration of the brain.
Jack Andraka has invented a test that can detect early stage pancreatic, ovarian and lung cancer. The cancer sensor is cheaper and faster than today’s gold standard test. In May of this year, Jack Andraka’s groundbreaking research won $75,000 for the first place prize at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair. Jack plans to put that money towards college, because he’s just 15 years old.
In September, GE and leading healthcare and financial partners launched a new healthymagination initiative focused on accelerating cancer innovation and improving care for 10 million cancer patients around the world by 2020 . The plan was announced in New York by GE’s CEO and Chairman Jeff Immelt to an audience of prominent cancer scientists and researchers, doctors, financial partners and employees of GE Healthcare. The company’s comprehensive initiative combines the strength of GE’s portfolio of integrated cancer technologies with collaboration between GE and new partners and data sources to help clinicians provide better, more personalized care.
The central dogma of molecular biology deals with the detailed residue-by-residue transfer of sequential information. It states that such information cannot be transferred from protein to either protein or nucleic acid. The irreversible flow of information is from DNA to RNA to protein; DNA is transcribed into messenger RNA (mRNA) and subsequently translated into protein. However, in recent years it has become clear that additional genetic information exists in the human genome. Non-protein coding RNA (ncRNA) refers to mRNA that is transcribed from DNA but is not translated into protein. These sequences, once thought of as “junk DNA” – portions of the DNA sequence of the genome that don’t have a function – are being found to have crucial roles in human development, physiology and disease. Indeed, recent studies suggest that there are thousands of ncRNAs in the human genome [1-2].
Non-coding RNAs include a class of molecules called microRNAs (miRNAs or miRs). MicroRNAs are highly expressed in normal tissues and are being found to have critical roles in gene regulatory processes during cellular development and differentiation. MicroRNAs are small ncRNAs ~21-nucleotides long that regulate gene expression at the post-transcriptional level. MicroRNAs function by binding target mRNA molecules and either inhibiting translation into protein or targeting them for degradation. Abnormal microRNA expression has been linked to many human diseases, including schizophrenia, autism and cancer.