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Misread epigenetic signals play role in leukemia

A genetic mistake may lead to misinterpretation of the chemical tags that help control gene activity

Scientists have shed light on how a genetic mutation linked to acute myeloid leukemia may trigger the disease. The problem arises when cells misinterpret chemical tags called epigenetic marks on certain key genes, a new study shows.

Similar problems probably lie at the heart of other cancers and diseases and may represent a new category of diseases, researchers report online May 10 in Nature.

Cancer may result from many different triggering events. In some patients with the blood cancer, the trigger seems to be a rearrangement of small pieces of chromosome, researchers discovered last year. The rearrangement fuses parts of two proteins — NUP98 and JARID1A — together. Now, Gang Wang and David Allis of Rockefeller University in New York City and their colleagues show how the pairing of the two proteins might lead to trouble for a cell.

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