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Scientists meet to discuss pioneering genetic treatments

Scientists from around the world will discuss how genetic material, similar to DNA, could be used to treat diseases such as cancer at UEA this week.

More than 100 researchers will come together to talk about ‘small RNAs’ – genetic material which plays a vital role in controlling when and where particular genes are expressed.

Defects in human small RNAs can lead to a variety of diseases such as cancer, osteoarthritis and liver disease.

It is hoped that a new wave of drugs and therapies could use artificial small RNAs to treat these diseases.

British plant scientist and geneticist Prof Sir David Baulcombe from the University of Cambridge will give the keynote speech at this, the UK’s first major conference on small RNAs.

The conference has been organised by Darrell Green from UEA’s Norwich Medical School and Nicole Ward from UEA’s School of Biological Sciences.

Darrell Green said:  “DNA and RNA are the genetic material which carry the instructions used in development, functioning and reproduction of living organisms.

“We’re going to be focusing on one type of RNA molecule, known simply as a ‘small RNA’ which is present in all plants and animals.

“Defects in human small RNAs can lead to diseases such as cancer, osteoarthritis and liver disease. We will be focusing on the latest breakthroughs in this pioneering field – from how small RNAs control muscle wasting to how they could be used to help beat cancer, osteoarthritis, liver disease and even spinal cord injuries.

Nicole Ward said: “Research into small RNAs is a relatively new field of science. Many of the early breakthroughs in this field were discovered here in Norwich. But over the last 15 years, research into small RNAs has really broadened, resulting in a wave of new drugs and therapies for difficult-to-treat diseases now on the horizon.”

The Big Roles for Small RNAs Conference takes place on Wednesday, June 29, at UEA’s Julian Study Centre. 

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