According to latest research, low oxygen levels in the body can be a major cause of cancer. There is a special gene in the body called BRCA1 that suppresses the growth and development of cancer cells. When oxygen levels in the body recede, this gene gets suppressed and hence, cannot effectively suppress cancer cells. This has emerged as one of the major causes of breast cancer. Further studies on the subject will be focused towards finding ways to trigger this gene back into action so that it can curb the growth of cancer cells. The author of the study, Peter Glazer, belonging to the Yale University in New Haven said that this could lead to a more biological and natural approach to cancer control.
Previous to this study, researchers at the Yale University worked on finding the correlation between oxygen level in the body and how the genes respond to it. It was found that hypoxia, which is a condition that signifies a reduced oxygen level in the body, causes reduction in the expression of the cancer controlling gene BRCA1. Following this study, speculations were raised whether low levels of oxygen could cause silencing and stopping the genetic expression of this gene.
Tumors in human beings are low oxygen zones in the body. Tumor cells do not contain blood vessels and hence, they do not receive blood. This results in reduced supply of oxygen as well and they become hypoxic. Tumors are also very unstable genetically and it is this instability that causes them to turn malignant. Added to this is the fact that low levels of oxygen in tumors reduce the expression of cancer controlling gene, which increases the chances of a tumor becoming cancerous.
Researchers say that by understanding exactly how the expression of the gene is reduced, it is possible to think of ways that can cause reversing of the condition. Histones are the proteins that enclose themselves around chromosomes and open up when chromosomes express. However, the study revealed that when the level of oxygen is low, changes occur in these histones. When the BRCA1 gene is silenced, it was found that profound changes occur in the histones. By blocking lysine demethylase, an enzyme that manipulates the changes in histones, BRCA1 genes can be reactivated. Glazer said that if a drug could be manufactured that could induce a molecule in to the body and stop the activity of this enzyme, then cancer could probably be averted or at least controlled from greater manifestation.