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Name: Wendy
Status: Student
Grade:  9-12
Location: NJ
Country: United States
Date: July 2005

I am learning things in a lab where the people do experiments related to cancer. They use cancer cells and they grow these cells. During this growing process, the researchers looked at the quality of RNA.

I want to know why they use RNA and not DNA? Isn't RNA a copy of DNA? I asked the researchers, but I was told me to figure it out by myself. I tried to look for an answer but I didn't found anything? Why is RNA better than DNA in studying cancer's process? What are the advantages of RNA in this research?

The RNA in a cell reveals what genes (DNA) are active in that cell. Not all the DNA in a cell is transcribed into mRNA, only the genes required for a particular cell type are active in a cell including cancer cells.

Ron Baker, Ph.D

I'll give you a hint-the nucleus contains ALL the DNA, the same as every other cell in the body. When a cell wants to make a protein, it copies only the genes it needs for that cell at that moment. The DNA doesn't tell you anything about that cell's activities at that moment. Now think about why they would want to study the RNA in cancer cells.


DNA is pretty much identical in all the cells of an organism, encoding all the possible functions that any cell might have, whether or not those particular functions are being used. In contrast, the RNA are the "working copies" of what is in the DNA, indicating functions that are currently or recently turned "on". Thus you might see how it is more critical to identify what functions are operating, to see which ones may have gone astray in a cancerous cell. Rather than search the entire DNA sequence, you can search just the operating parts coded in the RNA.


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