Researchers find biological role for puzzling protein

April 12, 2016

An epigenetic protein called UTX has long been proposed to function in erasing “cellular memory” so that a cell can reformat its hard drive and become a different cell type. Research has shown that when mutations prevent UTX from erasing cellular memory, cancer is often the result. However, the normal context in which UTX would reformat a cell’s hard-drive has remained a mystery… until now. Dr. Jeffrey Dilworth and his team recently discovered that this protein plays an important role in muscle repair and regeneration. They found that UTX is used to erase the cellular memory of adult muscle stem cells, allowing them to be reformatted as healthy new muscle fibers. In fact, without this protein muscles cannot repair themselves at all. This research, published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation, has the potential to one day help patients with muscular dystrophy, and to reduce muscle loss during aging.

Co-authors: Hervé Faralli, Chaochen Wang, Kiran Nakka, Aissa Benyoucef, Soji Sebastian, Lenan Zhuang, Alphonse Chu, Carmen Palii, Chengyu Liu, Brendan Camellato, Marjorie Brand, Kai Ge.

Funders: Canadian Institutes of Health Research, National Institutes of Health, The Ottawa Hospital Foundation

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