One of the small regulatory molecules, named microRNA-125b, is a novel regulator of p53, an important protein that safeguards cells against cancers, Singapore and U.S. scientists report in the March 17, 2009 issue of the journal Genes & Development.

The scientists found that during embryonic development, this microRNA keeps the level of p53 low to avoid excessive cell death.

But, if the DNA is damaged, the microRNA level is reduced to allow an increase in p53, which eliminates damaged cells and thus prevents tumor formation.

The research was conducted with zebrafish.

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