There is a new scientific study recently published that very well could prove a link between Cyanosis (A common occurrence with Congenital Heart Defects) and – of all things – cancer. The theory of young Cardiac Kids receiving high doses of radiation which possibly cause cancer later in life may prove to only be a theory.
As is often the case, researchers were looking not looking for the results they found. Dolores Takemoto, a professor of Biochemistry at Kansas State University, was studying proteins in the human eye. Her ultimate goal was to try to find ways for diabetics to save their eyesight, but she stumbled upon an unexpected discovery: The protein Coonexin46 (Cx46) will appear when there are low levels of oxygen in the body. This low oxygen condition is known as Hypoxia. And Cx46 is present in cancer cells – especially breast cancer.
So what does this have to do with Congenital Heart Defects? Severe Hypoxia causes Cyanosis… a term that many CHDers are familiar with.
OK, so if Cx46 is present in cancer cells, and appears in the presence of Hypoxia, is there anything we could do to stop it? Yes – but you need a medication that hasn’t been invented yet.
Takemoto’s lab is working on creating a specific Small Interfering Ribonucleic Acid, also known as a siRNA, to lower the levels of Cx46. A siRNA is a double strand of RNA molecules, and they counter certain genes. This is literally targeted gene therapy, a siRNA (in theory) will attack and smother a certain cell type and leave everything else alone.
Another researcher working on this problem with Takemoto is following a different path, studying the cancer prevention implications. The discovery of the Hypoxia/Cx46 connection opens the door not only to advances in fighting Congenital Heart Defects and Aquired Heart Diseases, but also to various types of cancer research and diabetes control.
“If we win here we can run the table.” – Sam Seaborn, The West Wing