Tuesday, June 3, 2014

MicroRNAs: Should Researchers Be Paying Attention?

According to Niall Barron, it’s estimated that somewhere between 50 and 70% of all protein encoding genes are under the control of MicroRNAs themselves.  That said, MicroRNAs are an important part of cell line development going forward.  Dr. Barron, who will be presenting on the topic at this year’s Cell Line Development and Engineering conference, believes these molecules should have researcher’s attention.  We were recently able to pick his brain and get some of his thoughts as to exactly why that is:  

Should biopharma companies and researchers be interested in MicroRNAs?

Dr. Barron: As I say, harkening back to this characteristic – which is their ability to influence the expression of lots of different proteins – one of the challenges in the past for engineering CHO cells is that we have to do it gene by gene. This is not proven to be particularly useful, although there has been some success in that area. So, with the ability to over-express or down-regulate individual microRNA, that opens up the possibility of changing the expression of multiple downstream genes or proteins. This really allows us to start thinking of about ways of engineering entire biological pathways within cells.

One of the other interesting aspects is that these molecules are not translated into proteins themselves. Therefore, as we know CHO cells, what we’re using them for is to over-express our product. Therefore, engineering something in there that will compete without over-expression is likely to be detrimental to efficiency. So, by using a microRNA as a tool, you reduce the translational burdens that you place upon the cell. We would hope that by doing that you are less likely to negatively impact on the expression of your product.

Finally, genetic engineering of CHO cells typically would involve a full submission to the regulatory authorities. Stably expressing CHO cells to up or down-regulate a particular microRNA would require that also, but there is the possibility of transiently transfecting them into an existing CHO cell line within the bioreactor, which would just be a process-related change in the same way that adding a feed of nutrients or something to a bioreactor is not considered a new cell line.

Download the brochure to check out Dr. Barron’s full interview.

Get the latest from Dr. Barron and other industry experts at this year’s Cell Line Development and Engineering conference, September 8-10, Berkeley, CA.  Now, SAVE 20% off the standard rate.  Register here and use code XB14189BLOG.

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