Scientist Alpana Ray The gene ADAM-12 seems to be a key element in fighting cancer, arthritis and cardiac hypertrophy or thickening of the heart’s walls. A groundbreaking research from the University of Missouri suggests that one pathway controlling the ADAM-12 gene can be employed for treating cancer, arthritis as well as cardiac disorders. The research findings may have great significance in the health world.

This gene is probably found in very low levels among adults, but during cancer, arthritis and cardiac hypertrophy, ADAM-12 level shoots up. Normal levels of ADAM-12 can be supposedly found in the placenta during pregnancy. At the molecular level, it appeared that a Z-DNA-binding silencer element keeps the level of ADAM-12 low in normal conditions.

“We are finding that in the placenta, where ADAM-12 is highly expressed, the repressor protein (Z-DNA-binding protein) is inactive. In other tissues, where ADAM-12 expression is low, the repressor is active,” Alpana Ray, research associate professor in the MU College of Veterinary Medicine, stated. “What we don’t know is how it actually works. We know co-factors are at work here. If we can identify the class of proteins that interact with Z-DNA repressor, it could lead to many therapeutic applications.”

Once altered, the Z-DNA-binding silencer can supposedly lead to novel therapies for a number of ailments. ADAM-12 seems to be a versatile gene that is involved in metastasis during which cancer cells migrate throughout the body and spread to other organs. The gene apparently enables cells to anchor to one another and proliferate. The next phase of the work will be ascertaining the way Z-DNA-binding protein works.

The research is published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).