NTU discovery may help cardiovascular, cancer experiments

A research team at National Taiwan University (NTU) has discovered a gene that curbs liver cancer metastasis and another that triggers coronary artery disease, the team's instructor said yesterday.

Lin Shu-hua (林淑華), a professor at the university's Department of Clinical Laboratory Sciences and Medical Biotechnology, said her research team's discovery came from experiments with the "knockout mouse" technique, which uses a mouse that has had the function of one or more of its genes deleted or made non-functional, to study the correlations of genes and diseases.


Lin said the team's discovery would help in developing new medicine and designing clinical experiments for liver cancer and cardiovascular disease.

She said that the X gene -- one of the two genes isolated -- helps curb liver cancer metastasis. Her team implanted liver cancer cells in mice, knocked out their X genes and observed metastasis and tumor clusters on them in the experiment.

The discovery might be helpful in improving the effects of liver cancer treatment if the correlation between the disease and the gene, which Lin described as "a guard" protecting the liver, is established through further experiments, she said.

In addition, the team found that the thromboxane A2 gene, or TXA2, causes coronary artery narrowing. The team's experiment knocked out that gene from mice, fed them high cholesterol food and found the percentage of coronary artery narrowing declined.

The team performed cardiac catheterization operations on the same mice and found that blood vessel damage was rare after the operations.

Lin said patients who receive cardiovascular stent operations usually have a 50 percent risk of suffering coronary artery narrowing following the operation.


The discovery assumes that medicine that curbs the TXA3 gene would lower the chances of getting cardiovascular disease, Lin said.

The knockout mouse technique has the greatest potential in the field.

Three scientists were awarded the Nobel Prize for Medicine last year for producing the first knockout mice. Oliver Smithies, one of the scientists, was Lin's instructor.