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Medtech Impact on Wellness

Shervin Takyar, MD, PhD, is an associate professor at Yale School of Medicine who joins the show today to discuss microRNA (miRNA).

Tune in to learn the following:

  • What role microRNA play in cell-to-cell communication
  • How the identification of a particular microRNA has shed light on the allergic response in asthma, and how to decrease that response
  • How microRNA are able to control multiple genes, and why this could potentially have life-saving clinical applications

Dr. Takyar holds a medical degree, as well as a PhD in both microbiology and molecular biology. He discusses the discovery of microRNA over 10 years ago, and the subsequent discoveries about their role in the body and gene expression. His research is focused on the interaction between microRNA and endothelium.

His most recent work began years ago when he noticed that a vascular growth factor (VEGF) was high in patients with asthma. Up until that point, most of the research about asthma was focused on lung epithelium or immune cells; Dr. Takyar wanted to investigate whether this vascular growth factor also affects the microRNA in endothelial cells.

Over the past 12 years, that’s been his primary focus. He has been able to show a correlation between VEGF and one particular microRNA in endothelial cells—specifically in the expression of the Mpl gene, which controls the adhesion of eosinophils (a type of white blood cell present in the asthmatic response).

He has shown that when VEGF increases, the specific microRNA decreases, and the Mpl gene is expressed. The relationship between the microRNA and Mpl gene makes sense, since microRNA is known to play an inhibitory role in gene expression.

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By changing this one microRNA in the endothelium of an animal model, the asthma response decreased significantly.

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This explanation leads Dr. Takyar to discuss the potential of microRNA as a tool for inhibiting or modulating groups of genes, rather than just one gene. This would confer a huge advantage to the treatment of certain ailments such as lung cancer, where it is known that targeting a single gene does not often produce the desired result.

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In addition to explaining just why it is that single-gene targets don’t work well, Dr. Takyar discusses a number of interesting topics, including the role of microRNA in cell-to-cell communication, how genes are matched with certain microRNA, how microRNA is able to control many genes as opposed to just one, and the biogenesis of microRNA.

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