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Potential role of Cytomegalovirus in cancer

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Potential role of Cytomegalovirus in cancer
Marjan Mehrab Mohseni
Cancer is known as a real threat to human health. Worldwide, it is among the most common causes of death. Cancer occurs when cells become abnormal and keep dividing and multiplying without control or order, forming a tumor or neoplasm. Cancer cells develop because of damage to DNA. Most often when DNA becomes damaged the body is able to repair it. In cancer cells, the damaged DNA is not repaired. In normal cells, there are some ways to protect DNA from being damaged, one of which is called methylation. Therefore, it is reasonable to assume that abnormal patterns of methylation could be seen in patients with cancer. Various factors like smoking, radiation, chemicals, and viruses are known to be associated with cancer.

Viruses have affected humans since ancient time. Rabies, polio, and smallpox are typical examples of viral diseases that have been observed since many centuries ago, although their causative agents remained unknown for quite a long time. One of the viruses that is speculated to be associated with different kinds of cancers is called cytomegalovirus. This virus belongs to a family of viruses that cause fever blisters and chickenpox. Often infection by cytomegalovirus gives no symptoms, but in patients with weak immune system, like patient suffering from AIDS, clinical disease is more prevalent.

The interaction between virus and host plays a key role for determining the outcome of infection. Viruses, including cytomegalovirus, likely try to exploit cell machineries of host for their own sake. In my study, I tried to figure out whether there was an association between infection with cytomegalovirus and methylation, which is a protecting factor against cancer. I observed by microscopy that cytomegalovirus infection causes one of the methylteransferase enzymes of the host to move out of nucleus, which suggests reduced DNA methylation. This might be one of the mechanisms that leads to cancer.
Degree project in biology fall 2007

Examensarbete i biologi, 20p

Biology Education Center, Uppsala University, Department of Clinical Neuroscience, Center for Molecular Medicine, Karolinska Institute, Stockholm

Supervisors: Prof. Tomas Ekström and Mohsen Karimi

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