Causes of Mesothelioma: Cell Methylation and Cancer

Recent developments in the field of biology have studied the functional processes of genes at the molecular level. Scientists have known for some time that certain sections of the chromosome, called genes, serve essential functions for the health and welfare of the cell and the host organism. There are large areas of the chromosome that were previously regarded as non-functional or “junk” DNA that are now known to have a role in the control of which genes are active (expressed) and which are not. The process of controlling genes through protein molecule messengers is called methylation.

Some genes control the replication of, and also the longevity of the cells that contain them. While we haven’t identified all of these genes, we have learned that, when growth regulating genes are blocked from doing their functions, cells can grow without restraint, causing malignant mesothelioma.

We have now discovered some of the proteins that appear to be responsible for interfering with the balanced and normal functions of a wide variety of regulatory genes. The excessive presence of such proteins in blood or urine (called over-expression) can be used as a measure of the presence of mesothelioma. We still don’t know exactly what causes these proteins to be produced in excessive amounts, nor have we uncovered all the connections between the production of these molecules and the genetic damage caused by asbestos.

We are now on the cutting edge of science having identified many of the genes responsible for suppressing or promoting tumor growth. Targeting the repair of tumor suppressor genes or inactivation of promoter genes may lead to more effective mesothelioma treatments. Because it is thought that many genetic events are linked to the formation and support of the cancer cell this remains an area under intense investigation.

For more information on the development of mesothelioma, read the following articles:

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