Dr. Michelle Hastings: Tiny genetic patches for the treatment of disease

Live Blogger: Christian Greenhill

Editor: Emily Eberhardt

This piece was written live during the 6th annual RNA Symposium: Towards our Future of RNA Therapeutics, hosted by the University of Michigan’s Center for RNA Biomedicine. Follow MiSciWriter’s coverage of this event on Twitter with the hashtag #umichrna. 

A tiny “genetic patch” can be used to cure common diseases that affect millions of people. At the 6th Annual RNA Symposium, Dr. Michelle Hastings gives us a taste of what goes on in her lab in the Windy City at the Chicago Medical School. The @HastingsLab focuses on designing tiny “genetic patches,” or oligonucleotides, to repair genetic processes that lead to severe neurodegenerative diseases, such as Usher syndrome, Batten’s disease, and cystic fibrosis. Over the last decade, Dr. Hastings’ work has led to numerous patents and FDA-approved therapies to improve symptoms associated with these diseases. Her work demonstrates that RNA is a powerful platform and target for future therapeutics.

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The influence of epigenetics in breast cancer therapeutics

Author: Jessica McAnulty
Editors: Tricia Garay, Stephanie Hamilton, and Whit Froehlich

Most likely, you know of someone diagnosed with breast cancer, which affects 1 in 8 women in the United States. Some of the reasons this disease is so difficult to treat are the lack of targeted therapies (as there are different subtypes of breast cancer) and tumor resistance to treatment. Therefore, scientists are investigating novel therapies that act on a specific component of the cancer and/or prevent this resistance. One exciting therapy alters the expression of certain genes; a gene needs to be expressed, or “turned on”, in order for the cell to obtain information from the gene and produce a product. This therapy is a promising approach since cancers, such as hormone-sensitive breast cancer, are often due to genetic mutations that result in an increase in gene expression. It is thought that using this therapy to alter gene expression will reverse the breast tumor’s resistance to treatment.

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