Long non-coding RNAs Thanks to support from the Balnaves Foundation, postdoctoral researcher Dr Jennifer Lynch will explore long non-coding RNAs as potential new targets for treating childhood leukaemia.
r Jennifer Lynch, 2014 Balnaves
“We aim to begin figuring out how this
expression of specific genes between wild-type
Young Researcher of the Year, is using her $100,000
chromosomal rearrangement contributes to the
leukaemia and MLL leukaemia as well as identify
award to support a one-year research project to
aggressiveness of MLL-rearranged leukaemia,”
binding partners that interact with the long non-
better understand long non-coding RNAs in acute
explained Lynch. “Several long non-coding RNAs
have been characterised and linked to the MLL-
“We know that the activity of long non-coding
An early-career researcher with the Cancer
rearrangement and we plan to look at how they
RNAs depends on their physical interaction with
and Stem Cell Biology Group at Children’s Cancer
contribute to the disease and to maintenance of the
binding partners,” she said. “Identifying critical
Institute Australia (CCIA), Lynch will look at whether
binding partners provides the opportunity to develop
targeting long non-coding RNAs can provide a new
Long non-coding RNAs are part of a large set
inhibitors that perturb the interaction of long non-
way of treating acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL).
of non-protein coding transcripts that, combined
coding RNAs with binding partners and potentially
“I recently recruited a research assistant,” said
with short non-coding RNAs and the protein-coding
develop a new way of treating ALL.
Lynch, who is in the second year of her postdoc.
messenger RNAs, form the human transcriptome.
“Understanding the mechanisms of action of
“So the work has just started. We plan to look at a
Not a lot is known about the function of long
these molecules and how they contribute to cancer will
particularly aggressive subtype of ALL, called MLL-
non-coding RNAs, but they have been linked to blood
facilitate the development of more targeted therapies.”
development and cancer.
Dr Denise Yu, a research officer with the
ALL is an acute form of leukaemia characterised
Lynch will use recently reported evidence on the
Experimental Therapeutics Program at CCIA, also
by the overproduction of lymphoblasts - cancerous
association of long non-coding RNAs with ALL as
received a $100,000 award for her research to identify
immature white blood cells. The lymphoblasts
well as investigating a novel long non-coding RNA
metabolic pathways in cancer cells that may be new
accumulate in the bone marrow and impede the
her group at CCIA believe to be associated with acute
targets for treating neuroblastoma - the most common
production of normal blood cells.
myeloid leukaemia (AML).
solid cancer found in infants.
“We have a publication in the pipeline on a gene
The Balnaves Foundation established the Balnaves
that we propose plays a critical role in regulating stem
Foundation Young Researcher’s Fund in 2008 to
MLL-rearranged ALL is the most aggressive
cell behaviour in AML and we have evidence to suggest
support the development of original ideas in childhood
subtype of childhood leukaemia and has a very poor
that this gene might be regulated by a long non-coding
cancer research. Through the foundation, renowned
prognosis. It is characterised by a high incidence of
RNA,” Lynch said.
Australian philanthropist Neil Balnaves AO invests
ALL is most common in children between 2 and 5 years of age.
chromosomal translocations or rearrangements in the
Long non-coding RNAs also interact with
more than $2.5 million each year to support education,
MLL gene. These chromosomal rearrangements are
chromatin-modifying complexes and regulate gene
medicine and the arts with a focus on young people,
an important predictor of adverse outcome.
expression. Lynch plans to look at the different
the disadvantaged and Indigenous communities.
30 | LAB+LIFE SCIENTIST - March 2015
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