Lab+Life Scientist Mar 2015

Page 30


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

coding RNAs.

childhood leukaemia.

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.”

rearranged ALL.”

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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Susan Williamson