Scientists at Trinity College Dublin have made an important discovery concerning how fledgling cancer cells self-destruct, which has the potential of impacting on future cancer therapies. The Trinity research group, led by Smurfit Professor of Medical Genetics, Professor Seamus Martin and funded by Science Foundation Ireland, has just published their findings in the internationally renowned journal, Molecular Cell.
Professor Martin's team has discovered how a process called 'autophagy' – which literally means 'self-eating' – plays an important role in safeguarding against the development of cancer. The discovery highlights an unexpected role for a killer protein, called Noxa, in triggering the self-eating process that leads cells in the early stages of cancer to literally eat themselves to death.
Normally, the process of autophagy is switched on when cells experience periods of starvation and in this context is beneficial by helping to keep the 'wolf from the door' until food reappears on the menu. However, the Martin laboratory has discovered that mutations in a gene called Ras, which is involved in approximately 30% of human cancers, triggers excessive autophagy leading to auto-destruction of the fledgling tumour cell. Mutant Ras was found to switch cells into the self-eating mode by ramping up the production of Noxa. The study suggests that autophagy represents an important natural safeguard against cancer development.
Importantly, the Trinity team also discovered that members of the Bcl-2 gene family could override this process, switching off the self-eating process and leading to survival of cancerous cells. This suggests that drugs targeting Bcl-2 might reactivate the natural self-destruction pathway and help to shrink tumours. The fact that mutant Ras triggers self-destruction of cells carrying this gene also helps to explain why the emergence of fully cancerous cells is relatively rare when we consider that the average human makes hundreds of billions of cells over the course of their lifetime.
Commenting on the findings, Professor Martin stated: "This discovery is an important step forward in our understanding of how cells in the early stages of cancer hit the autodestruct button and suggests new ways in which we may be able to re-activate this process in cancers that do manage to establish. This breakthrough has led directly from investment in research made by the Irish state over the past 10 years through important initiatives such as the establishment of Science Foundation Ireland."
The work was carried out in the Molecular Cell Biology Laboratory at TCD's School of Genetics and Microbiology by the research team led by Professor Martin and funded primarily through a major award from Science Foundation Ireland. The TCD research team is internationally recognised for its work on cell death control in cancer and immunity.
Professor Seamus Martin | EurekAlert!
The birth of a new protein
20.10.2017 | University of Arizona
Building New Moss Factories
20.10.2017 | Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg im Breisgau
University of Maryland researchers contribute to historic detection of gravitational waves and light created by event
On August 17, 2017, at 12:41:04 UTC, scientists made the first direct observation of a merger between two neutron stars--the dense, collapsed cores that remain...
Seven new papers describe the first-ever detection of light from a gravitational wave source. The event, caused by two neutron stars colliding and merging together, was dubbed GW170817 because it sent ripples through space-time that reached Earth on 2017 August 17. Around the world, hundreds of excited astronomers mobilized quickly and were able to observe the event using numerous telescopes, providing a wealth of new data.
Previous detections of gravitational waves have all involved the merger of two black holes, a feat that won the 2017 Nobel Prize in Physics earlier this month....
Material defects in end products can quickly result in failures in many areas of industry, and have a massive impact on the safe use of their products. This is why, in the field of quality assurance, intelligent, nondestructive sensor systems play a key role. They allow testing components and parts in a rapid and cost-efficient manner without destroying the actual product or changing its surface. Experts from the Fraunhofer IZFP in Saarbrücken will be presenting two exhibits at the Blechexpo in Stuttgart from 7–10 November 2017 that allow fast, reliable, and automated characterization of materials and detection of defects (Hall 5, Booth 5306).
When quality testing uses time-consuming destructive test methods, it can result in enormous costs due to damaging or destroying the products. And given that...
Using a new cooling technique MPQ scientists succeed at observing collisions in a dense beam of cold and slow dipolar molecules.
How do chemical reactions proceed at extremely low temperatures? The answer requires the investigation of molecular samples that are cold, dense, and slow at...
Scientists from the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics, using high precision laser spectroscopy of atomic hydrogen, confirm the surprisingly small value of the proton radius determined from muonic hydrogen.
It was one of the breakthroughs of the year 2010: Laser spectroscopy of muonic hydrogen resulted in a value for the proton charge radius that was significantly...
17.10.2017 | Event News
10.10.2017 | Event News
10.10.2017 | Event News
20.10.2017 | Information Technology
20.10.2017 | Materials Sciences
20.10.2017 | Interdisciplinary Research