Over the past few years, scientists have discovered that a new class of genetic regulators called 'microRNAs' influences normal human growth and development. Now, three different teams of scientists working independently have found that microRNAs don't just direct normal growth - they also have an important role in human cancers (see Nature; 09 June 2005, Vol. 435, No. 7043, pp 828-838).
In the first paper, Gregory Hannon and colleagues found that a certain cluster of microRNAs can cause blood cancer in mice. In the second report, Joshua Mendell and colleagues find that some microRNAs cooperate with a gene that is already known to cause human cancers. In the final report, Todd Golub's team found that different human cancers have different microRNA 'signatures'. This raises the possibility that doctors might be able to use microRNA profiles to diagnose human tumours.
In an accompanying News and Views article, Paul Meltzer sums up the importance of the trio of papers. "[T]hese three studies change the landscape of cancer genetics by establishing the specific miRNAs expressed in most common cancers and investigating the effects of miRNAs on cancer development and cancer genes," Meltzer writes.
Gregory Hannon (Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, NY, USA)
E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Paper 
Joshua Mendell (Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine Baltimore, MD, USA)
E-mail: email@example.com Paper 
Todd Golub (Dana Farber Cancer Institute, Boston, MA, USA)
E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Paper 
Paul Meltzer (National Human Genome Research Institute, Bethesda, MD, USA)
E-mail: email@example.com News and Views author
(C) Nature press release.
Message posted by: Trevor M. D'Souza