Cancer Kill Switch

Cancer kill switch

Cancer kill switch

What if you could just flick a switch and turn off cancer? It seems like something you would see in a sci-fi flick, but scientists are working towards a future where that could be a reality. At the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Florida, a group of researchers have made a discovery that could be a kill switch for cancer. They have found a way to reprogram mutating cancer cells back to normal, healthy cells.

Panos Anastasiadis, PhD, head of the Department of Cancer Biology at the Mayo Clinic, and his team were studying the role of adhesion proteins in cells. Anastasiadis’ primary focus was on the p120 catenin protein and long held hypothesis on it being a major player in the suppressor of tumors. The team found that p120, along with another adhesion protein, E-cadherin, actually promoted cancer growth. “That led us to believe that these molecules have two faces — a good one, maintaining the normal behavior of the cells, and a bad one that drives tumorigenesis.”

In that research, however, Anastasiadis made a remarkable discovery, “an unexpected new biology that provides the code, the software for turning off cancer.” That would be a partner to the P120 protein, dubbed PLEKHA7. When introduced to tumors, PLEKHA7 was able to “turn off” the cancerous cells’ ability to replicate and return it to a benign state. It stopped the cancer in its tracks.

How it all works is pretty straightforward. Normal, healthy cells are regulated by a sort of biological microprocessor known as microRNAs, which tell the cells to stop replicating when they have reproduced enough. Cancer is caused by a cell’s inability to stop replicating itself, and eventually grows into a cluster of cells that we know as a tumor. Anastasiadis’ team found that PLEKHA7 was an important factor in halting the replication of cells, but that it wasn’t present in the cancerous cells. By reintroducing PLEKHA7, what were once raging cancerous cells returned to normal.

This was done by injecting PLEKHA7 directly into the cells, under a controlled lab test. Anastasiadis said they still need to work on “better delivery options,” as these tests were done on human cells in a lab. They did find success, however, in stopping the growth in two very aggressive forms of cancer: breast and bladder. While this isn’t being tested on humans yet, it represents a huge step forward in understanding the nature of cancer and we can cure it.

 

Source:  Geek.com

Scientists grow 5-week-old human brain

Scientists successfully grow human brain in lab

Scientists successfully grow human brain in lab

Growing brain tissue in a dish has been done before, but bold new research announced this week shows that scientists’ ability to create human brains in laboratory settings has come a long way quickly.

Researchers at the Ohio State University in the US claim to have developed the most complete laboratory-grown human brain ever, creating a model with the brain maturity of a 5-week-old foetus. The brain, which is approximately the size of a pencil eraser, contains 99 percent of the genes that would be present in a natural human foetal brain.

“It not only looks like the developing brain, its diverse cell types express nearly all genes like a brain,” Rene Anand, professor of biological chemistry and pharmacology at Ohio State and lead researcher on the brain model, said in a statement.

“We’ve struggled for a long time trying to solve complex brain disease problems that cause tremendous pain and suffering. The power of this brain model bodes very well for human health because it gives us better and more relevant options to test and develop therapeutics other than rodents.”

Anand turned to stem cell engineering four years ago after his specialized field of research – examining the relationship between nicotinic receptors and central nervous system disorders – ran into complications using rodent specimens. Despite having limited funds, Anand and his colleagues succeeded with their proprietary technique, which they are in the process of commercializing.

The brain they have developed is a virtually complete recreation of a human foetal brain, primarily missing only a vascular system – in other words, all the blood vessels. But everything else (spinal cord, major brain regions, multiple cell types, signalling circuitry is there). What’s more, it’s functioning, with high-resolution imaging of the brain model showing functioning neurons and brain cells.

The researchers say that it takes 15 weeks to grow a lab-developed brain to the equivalent of a 5-week-old foetal human brain, and the longer the maturation process the more complete the organoid will become.

“If we let it go to 16 or 20 weeks, that might complete it, filling in that 1 percent of missing genes. We don’t know yet,” said Anand.

The scientific benefit of growing human brains in laboratory settings is that it enables high-end research into human diseases that cannot be completed using rodents.

“In central nervous system diseases, this will enable studies of either underlying genetic susceptibility or purely environmental influences, or a combination,” said Anand. “Genomic science infers there are up to 600 genes that give rise to autism, but we are stuck there. Mathematical correlations and statistical methods are insufficient to in themselves identify causation. You need an experimental system – you need a human brain.”

The research was presented this week at the Military Health System Research Symposium.

 

Source:  sciencealert.com