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Biotech Medicine

Discovery of "Cancer-Proof" Rodent Cells 118

Posted by kdawson
from the don't-crowd-me dept.
anglico sends news of research out of the University of Rochester that has identified a gene that "cancer-proofs" cells in rodents. "Despite a 30-year lifespan that gives ample time for cells to grow cancerous, a small rodent species called a naked mole rat has never been found with tumors of any kind — and now biologists at the University of Rochester think they know why. The findings, presented in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, show that the mole rat's cells express a gene called p16 that makes the cells 'claustrophobic,' stopping the cells' proliferation when too many of them crowd together, cutting off runaway growth before it can start. The effect of p16 is so pronounced that when researchers mutated the cells to induce a tumor, the cells' growth barely changed, whereas regular mouse cells became fully cancerous."
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Discovery of "Cancer-Proof" Rodent Cells

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  • Judging by the story, and in the context of my almost complete lack of formal training in cell biology, it sounds like the cells might not be resistant to cancer-causing virii, but rather it just means the infected cells can't multiply past a certain point. Sort of like carrying a disease but not showing any symptoms.
  • by shaitand (626655) on Tuesday October 27, 2009 @10:59PM (#29892815) Journal

    "If we were really patient, we could knock out p16 in these moles and see if they get cancer. That would pretty well establish whether or not it was just p16 that was responsible for the relative resistance to cancer."

    It would establish if p16 is is an essential part of their cancer resistance but if p16 is working in combination with something else your experiment wouldn't reveal it.

  • by Scubaraf (1146565) on Tuesday October 27, 2009 @11:06PM (#29892853)
    Now you know how I feel when there's an article about API's, Ubuntu, or codecs.

    Human cells have and express p16-INK4A normally - it's part of the CDKN2A gene locus. It is a cell cycle control gene whose main function is to put the brakes on replication. p16 is expressed in human cells and is often mutated or outright deleted in many human cancers of all cell types.
    COSMIC [sanger.ac.uk] (new window)

    The difference described in naked mole rats is that their cells induce p16 expression after minimal contact with neighboring cells while human and rat cells need more prodding to turn on cell cycle control genes.

    This is a cool finding, but does not have a direct application in human cancers anytime soon. It's very hard to turn on a gene that has been mutated or deleted in cancer cells. You have to do it in practically every cell, otherwise, they grow back. Even then it may be too late. Loss of contact inhibition may be necessary in early oncogenesis, but restoration of p16 expression in a cancer cell that already has multiple genetic mutations, may not do much at that point. So, it's an interesting finding and I hope it leads to a better understanding of cancer and cancer prevention. But honestly, we have cool findings like this once a week. It just requires the right spin to sell it to the media - like calling something a "cancer-proof" gene - and it finds its way here.
  • Wrong. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by BitZtream (692029) on Tuesday October 27, 2009 @11:39PM (#29893015)

    Please don't spread your misinformation to others.

    Mammals are by definition, warm blooded. These animals do have a difficult time controlling their body temp, but that does not make them cold blooded.

    They also are not 'immune' to pain. Immunity is by definition resistance to infection from other organisms such as bacteria and viruses. Pain is not another organism, its a sensation the brain generates based on the signals sent by nerve endings throughout different parts of the body. They may not perceive certain types of pain, but that is not "immunity".

    I'm guessing you failed high school biology?

    They aren't a particularly impressive vermin, their inability to control their own temp puts severe constraints on where they can live and what they can do. The would, for instance, not survive in most of the united states for most of the year without remaining a fair distance underground, in which case they are of little threat to much of anything other than some plants with deep roots.

    Your potatoes are still safe, since they would freeze to death in the winters where most potatoes are grown, and most people keep their homes below an acceptable temp for them to reside in doors.

    Theres a reason they live in the desert.

  • by rrohbeck (944847) on Wednesday October 28, 2009 @12:40AM (#29893289)

    Generally you can tell the pros and people in the know from the wannabees by their correct use of terms.

The person who's taking you to lunch has no intention of paying.

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