Free Press Journal

Human cells with ‘built-in circuit’ can kill cancer cells


London: Researchers have engineered cells with a “built-in genetic circuit” that produces a molecule that impairs the ability of cancer cells to survive and grow in their low oxygen environment, says IANS. The genetic circuit produces the machinery necessary for the production of a compound that inhibits a protein which has a significant and critical role in the growth and survival of tumors. This results in the cancer cells being unable to survive in the low oxygen, low nutrient tumor micro environment.

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“In a wider sense, we have given these engineered cells the ability to fight back – to stop a key protein from functioning in cancer cells,” said lead researcher Ali Tavassoli, Professor at the University of Southampton in Britain.

“This opens up the possibility for the production and use of sentinel circuits, which produce other bioactive compounds in response to environmental or cellular changes, to target a range of diseases including cancer,” Tavassoli said.

As tumors develop and grow, they rapidly outstrip the supply of oxygen delivered by existing blood vessels. This results in cancer cells needing to adapt to a low oxygen environment. To enable them to survive, adapt and grow in the low oxygen or ‘hypoxic’ environment, tumors contain increased levels of a protein called Hypoxia-inducible factor 1 (HIF-1).

This protein senses reduced oxygen levels and triggers many changes in cellular function, including a changed metabolism and sending signals for the formation of new blood vessels. It is thought that tumors primarily hijack the function of this protein (HIF-1) to survive and grow.

“In an effort to better understand the role of HIF-1 in cancer, and to demonstrate the potential for inhibiting this protein in cancer therapy, we engineered a human cell line with an additional genetic circuit that produces the HIF-1 inhibiting molecule when placed in a hypoxic environment,” Tavassoli explained.


Scientists inching closer to halt spread of lung cancer

London: Scientists have identified a component of cancer cells, which acts like a ‘cellular post office’, that may be the key to preventing the spread of lung cancer to other parts of the body. The findings could point towards new therapeutics, targeted at a particular communication mechanism in the cell, according to PTI.

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This communication triggers a change in the scaffolding of the cell perimeter – altering from a fixed shape, attached to an organ, to a less stable one, moving freely around the body. The ‘post office’ of the cell, or the Golgi apparatus as it is more commonly known, has the ability to package proteins in order to transport them to other parts of the cell or to deliver them to areas outside of the cell.

Researchers identified that a protein, called PAQR11, inside the ‘cellular post office’, receives a signal from another protein, called Zeb1; the communication between the two proteins prompts the transport of membrane sacks inside the Golgi.