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Understanding epigenetics to develop new therapies

Conquest - Fall 2013

Expanding the search

By Hilary Graham 

Mark Bedford, Ph.D.
Photo: Medical Graphics 
and Photography

Mark Bedford, Ph.D., professor in Molecular Carcinogenesis, works to identify novel epigenetic interactions and their role in disease.

Bedford has developed a technology that immobilizes more than 300 different epigenetic domains on a glass slide. These can be used to identify proteins that interact with the domains, as well as small molecules that may serve to inhibit them. He established the Protein Domain Microarrays Core to provide this technology to other researchers. Using this technology, researchers can identify the molecular interactions of many types of epigenetic readers, which include a variety of epigenetic domains.

Bedford’s research program focuses specifically on arginine methylation, one type of epigenetic modification, and the family of enzymes that add this mark — protein arginine methyltransferases. Only recently has this family of enzymes been definitively linked to cancer. Interestingly, they do not appear to be mutated in cancer; instead, an overproduction of these enzymes is often observed in cancer cells. By understanding their cellular roles, Bedford anticipates that new avenues for drug development will become available.

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© 2015 The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center