Asian Scientist (Jul. 8, 2013) – A team of researchers in Singapore and China has uncovered a genetic variant that increases the risk of non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL), a type of blood cancer, in ethnic Chinese. This is the first genome-wide study of NHL genetic risk factors in Asians.
NHL is a cancer that develop from lymphocytes, a type of white blood cell that constitute part of the body’s immune system. There are two main types of lymphocytes: B lymphocytes (B cells) and T lymphocytes (T cells).
In this study, published in Nature Genetics, the researchers conducted a genome-wide analysis of over 250 Singaporean Chinese individuals with B cell NHL and compared them with over 1,400 individuals who did not have the cancer.
Through this analysis, the researchers were able to identify heritable gene variants that influenced susceptibility to B cell NHL. Using these findings from the Singapore Chinese study, the team looked for similar gene variants in another three sample populations in China (two in Guangzhou and one in Beijing).
In total, 1,428 NHL patients and 6,930 normal individuals of Chinese origin were investigated in this study.
The researchers found that variation in an intergenic region contributed to NHL risk. An intergenic region is a stretch of DNA that separates two genes in the genome. Although sometimes known as ‘junk’ DNA, recent studies have shown that DNA in such regions may have important biological roles.
The genetic variation was located in a stretch of DNA between the BCL6 and LPP genes. According to the researchers, individuals who carried this genetic variant had a 50 percent increased risk of NHL compared to those who do not.
Although the genetic variation may not directly alter the sequence and function of a particular gene, the researchers suspect that it may promote the development of NHL by influencing the activity of genes in that region of the genome.
Copyright: Asian Scientist Magazine; Photo: samantha celera/Flickr.
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#Anhui Medical University #China #Chinese Academy of Medical Science #Genome Institute of Singapore #National Cancer Center Singapore #National Skin Centre Singapore #National University Health System #National University of Singapore #Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma #Singapore #Singapore Eye Research Institute #Singapore General Hospital #Sun Yat-Sen University #Sun Yat-Sen University Cancer Center #Tan Tock Seng Hospital