Last week, in the Scientific journal “Nature”. Scientists from the University of Washington in the United States, published a paper called “DNA of a cytogenetically normal acute myeloid leukaemia genome“. The article is published under a creative commons license, so it is free for anyone to read (you don’t need to subscribe to nature.)
The paper is complicated and techical, but it is important! What the scientists have managed to do is compare some normal cells and some cancer cells from the same person and work out what is different. Out of the tens of thousands of genes they discovered 8 genes that were different.
What is important here, is that they compared the patients normal cells to her cancer cells, so they could see what mutations had happened by chance and what mutations were linked to the cancer.
As the scientists point out, they need to do this study on lots of other people with AML so they can work out which mutations are most important (i.e. which mutations make the disease hard to cure or make you more likely to relapse).
*What does cytogenetically (sigh-toe-jin-et-i-cally) mean? The word “cyto” means cell. The genetically part means they are looking at “genes”. Usually a cytogeneticist (a scientist that specialises in cytogenetics), looks at chromosomes down a microscope. There is a picture of a chromosome at the top of this post, a chromosome is contains DNA, genes are bits of DNA. To learn more about cytogenetics visit this website at the University of Washington, where you can see pictures of human chromosomes.