Texas University LogoA microRNA, which can find novel ways to fight cancer and other diseases seem to play a crucial role in regulating circadian rhythm. Atleast this is what the researchers from the Texas A&M University claim.

Liheng Shi elucidated that circadian rhythm appears to be approximately the 24-hour cycle of physiological activities of humans, animals as well as bacteria. This research focused on the circadian rhythm in chickens’ eyes, which apparently have a lot in common with human eyes.

Liheng Shi, a researcher in Texas A&M’s Department of Veterinary Integrative Biosciences further stated that, “The prefix ‘photo-’ in photoreceptors means light, and photoreceptors in animals’ eyes receive light signals and then translate them into signals that their brain can understand, and that is how they see.”

According to Shi, there may be two kinds of photoreceptors namely cone photoreceptors and rod photoreceptors. Also, these photoreceptors are named depending on the shape they resemble.

Some channels, which scientists called as L-VGCCs seem to be vital to the circadian rhythm in chickens’ eyes. They are important because they are the pathways through which messages go in and out of photoreceptors. In addition, these messages appear to be essential to the proper working of the eye.

Shi claimed that a group of proteins particularly L-VGCCa1C seems to be able to carry the messages in and out. At night, they are believed to be getting more work done as compared to the day time in order to prepare chickens’ eyes for one more day’s busy work and inform various parts of the eye to adjust to the darkness.

These proteins may possibly be controlled by messengers, called mRNA, which are particularly active – a finding that made the researchers wonder why.

“There must be an explanation and we found a possible answer,” says Shi.

Supposedly, the answer lies in a sibling of the messenger named microRNA-26a, a ‘small guy’ in the RNA family.

“During the day, the ‘naughty small guy’ crawls onto the back of his brother mRNA, so his brother cannot concentrate on his work. At night, however, he lets his brother go, so his brother focuses on his work and gets more work done,” explains Shi.

“Besides regulating circadian rhythm, the microRNA family also influences cancer development, cell division, heart disease, and so on,” he added.

Shi claimed that what they know about microRNAs is possibly only a tip of the iceberg. They are planning to know more about them, these ‘small guys’ could possibly be able to assist them in diagnosing and treating many diseases.

The findings of the research have been published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry.