surely via iStock”>
surely via iStock
This article originally appeared on Massive.
The first targeted treatment for migraines may soon gain FDA approval — and the molecule it targets was discovered by chance by researchers studying cancer.
The story begins back in the early 1980s, when Michael Rosenfeld, an endocrinologist at the University of California, San Diego, and his PhD student Susan Amara, were studying the production of hormones in thyroid tumors. In the course of their research, they found some of the tumors would spontaneously reduce their production of a hormone called calcitonin, which is involved in bone metabolism.
That in itself wasn’t strange: Scientists already understood that some hormone-producing tumors would stop producing one hormone, usually accompanied by starting to produce another. What mechanisms the cell used for this change in hormone production is actually what Amara and Rosenfeld were trying to figure out. But oddly, they found the low-calcitonin-producing tumors were still copying the calcitonin gene into RNA — suddenly, they just weren’t making the hormone. Even stranger, those tumors started making large quantities of a different hormone, one the researchers had never seen before.
They named the new hormone calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP). Weirdly, the genetic instructions for CGRP looked like they were coming from the same gene as calcitonin. Amara and Rosenfeld suspected that a then recently discovered phenomenon called RNA splicing was involved. DNA can be thought of as a “cookbook,” with genes representing different recipes. If a cell wants to make a protein, it must first copy, or transcribe, that protein’s recipe into a molecule called messenger RNA (mRNA) — …read more