New Research on Pediatric Brain Tumors Underway
To further explain, Dr. Rubin uses an analogy of a car mechanic’s instruction book for building engines. Think of histones and epigenetics as the book’s table of contents and the genome as the text. The histones control what portions of the book the mechanic is directed to when needing instructions on how to build his engine. If the histones are incorrect, it will cause the mechanic to turn to the wrong page and build the wrong type of engine with no way of starting over, returning to the table of contents or going to the correct page.
“So if histones are regulating when genes are being used, you can imagine that the dysregulation of histones will turn some genes on and some genes off,” Dr. Rubin says. “We think the basis of cancer formation is in the turning on of oncogenes and the turning off of tumor suppressor genes.”
It takes just the right amount of expertise for this level of scientific inquiry to generate momentum. Dr. Rubin says his team has that covered.
“We make a good team. Dr. Kim is a neurosurgeon who studies glioblastoma by taking adult patient specimens, studying them in the lab and creating mouse models,” Dr. Rubin says. “I do similar work with pediatric specimens. Dr. Kroll is a developmental neurobiologist, and both she and Dr. Yano are experts in the epigenetics of the nervous system.”
And, Dr. Rubin adds, what they discover together has the potential for broader application.
“When we talk about epigenetic mechanisms, we really are addressing the fundamental aspects of cell identity which are relevant to any disorder of development in any system. The model systems we create will be useful in understanding normal development and which parts of the changes in the tumor matter most for derailing development. The next 10 years should be very exciting in this area of discovery.”