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!
Symbiotic bacteria: from hitchhiker to beetle bodyguard
28.04.2017 | Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz
Nose2Brain – Better Therapy for Multiple Sclerosis
28.04.2017 | Fraunhofer-Institut für Grenzflächen- und Bioverfahrenstechnik IGB
More and more automobile companies are focusing on body parts made of carbon fiber reinforced plastics (CFRP). However, manufacturing and repair costs must be further reduced in order to make CFRP more economical in use. Together with the Volkswagen AG and five other partners in the project HolQueSt 3D, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) has developed laser processes for the automatic trimming, drilling and repair of three-dimensional components.
Automated manufacturing processes are the basis for ultimately establishing the series production of CFRP components. In the project HolQueSt 3D, the LZH has...
Reflecting the structure of composites found in nature and the ancient world, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have synthesized thin carbon nanotube (CNT) textiles that exhibit both high electrical conductivity and a level of toughness that is about fifty times higher than copper films, currently used in electronics.
"The structural robustness of thin metal films has significant importance for the reliable operation of smart skin and flexible electronics including...
The nearby, giant radio galaxy M87 hosts a supermassive black hole (BH) and is well-known for its bright jet dominating the spectrum over ten orders of magnitude in frequency. Due to its proximity, jet prominence, and the large black hole mass, M87 is the best laboratory for investigating the formation, acceleration, and collimation of relativistic jets. A research team led by Silke Britzen from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany, has found strong indication for turbulent processes connecting the accretion disk and the jet of that galaxy providing insights into the longstanding problem of the origin of astrophysical jets.
Supermassive black holes form some of the most enigmatic phenomena in astrophysics. Their enormous energy output is supposed to be generated by the...
The probability to find a certain number of photons inside a laser pulse usually corresponds to a classical distribution of independent events, the so-called...
Microprocessors based on atomically thin materials hold the promise of the evolution of traditional processors as well as new applications in the field of flexible electronics. Now, a TU Wien research team led by Thomas Müller has made a breakthrough in this field as part of an ongoing research project.
Two-dimensional materials, or 2D materials for short, are extremely versatile, although – or often more precisely because – they are made up of just one or a...
28.04.2017 | Event News
20.04.2017 | Event News
18.04.2017 | Event News
28.04.2017 | Medical Engineering
28.04.2017 | Earth Sciences
28.04.2017 | Life Sciences