Reciprocally, switching off the gene leads to cancer. The scientists think there is a good chance that the gene can be switched on again with a drug. They report their findings in the reputed scientific journal PLoS Biology.
All of us begin our lives as one cell, which divides into two, four, eight … into a human of a few billion cells. Almost all cells in an adult human – skin cells, liver cells, eye lens cells, nerve cells, insulin-producing cells etc – are highly specialized to perform a specific function. They are no longer capable of taking on another task: when a skin cell divides, you get more skin cells. During the growth from an embryo to an adult human, the cells become more and more specialized ("differentiated", biologists say).
Cancer cells are an exception to that rule: they are much less specialized, and feel at home in different places in the body. Researchers have long believed that cells must take the last step in their specialization to be better protected from turning into cancer cells. However, this was not proven in a living organism.
Wouter Bossuyt from the Group of Bassem Hassan and their fellow VIB researchers at K.U.Leuven, now demonstrate with fruit flies that master control genes steering the specialization step indeed inhibit tumor formation. The specific example the VIB scientists used, are the ones biologists call the Atonal genes. These genes are very similar to each other in all species, from flies to humans.
With mice, and in collaboration with colleagues from the United States, they showed that loss of one of those genes, Atonal homolog 1 or ATOH1, causes colon cancer. The gene regulates the last step in the specialization to epithelial cell of the colon. Humans with colon cancer frequently have an inactivated ATOH1 gene, the researchers observed.
The researchers could – in a test tube – reactivate the gene in human colon cancer cells. The tumor cells stopped growing and committed suicide. Since they were able to switch the gene on with a reasonably simple chemical, this opens possibilities to one day perhaps switch the gene back on in living patients. It will be very important in the future to study in detail how exactly ATOH1 does performs its anti-cancer job
Sooike Stoops | EurekAlert!
Cryo-electron microscopy achieves unprecedented resolution using new computational methods
24.03.2017 | DOE/Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory
How cheetahs stay fit and healthy
24.03.2017 | Forschungsverbund Berlin e.V.
Astronomers from Bonn and Tautenburg in Thuringia (Germany) used the 100-m radio telescope at Effelsberg to observe several galaxy clusters. At the edges of these large accumulations of dark matter, stellar systems (galaxies), hot gas, and charged particles, they found magnetic fields that are exceptionally ordered over distances of many million light years. This makes them the most extended magnetic fields in the universe known so far.
The results will be published on March 22 in the journal „Astronomy & Astrophysics“.
Galaxy clusters are the largest gravitationally bound structures in the universe. With a typical extent of about 10 million light years, i.e. 100 times the...
Researchers at the Goethe University Frankfurt, together with partners from the University of Tübingen in Germany and Queen Mary University as well as Francis Crick Institute from London (UK) have developed a novel technology to decipher the secret ubiquitin code.
Ubiquitin is a small protein that can be linked to other cellular proteins, thereby controlling and modulating their functions. The attachment occurs in many...
In the eternal search for next generation high-efficiency solar cells and LEDs, scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory and their partners are creating...
Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are less stable. Now researchers at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) have, for the first time ever, produced a composite material combining silicon nanosheets and a polymer that is both UV-resistant and easy to process. This brings the scientists a significant step closer to industrial applications like flexible displays and photosensors.
Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are...
Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to simulate these confined natural conditions in artificial vesicles for the first time. As reported in the academic journal Small, the results are offering better insight into the development of nanoreactors and artificial organelles.
Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to...
20.03.2017 | Event News
14.03.2017 | Event News
07.03.2017 | Event News
24.03.2017 | Materials Sciences
24.03.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
24.03.2017 | Physics and Astronomy