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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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  • by toppavak (943659) on Tuesday October 27, 2009 @09:15PM (#29892479)
    All organisms have these kinds of tumor suppressor genes whether they act to inhibit cell proliferation or promote cell death, in fact most cancers have to have mutations that inhibit these suppressor genes as well as mutations which enhance genes that promote cell growth and proliferation. What would be more interesting than simply identifying the suppressor gene(s) believed to be the cause of the absence of naked mole rat cancers would be in identifying the mechanisms that have protected that(those) gene(s). I wonder if the researchers in question also considered alternate explanations for the absence of cancers in naked mole rats- its very possible that their subterranean environment simply doesn't contain as many mutagens as we are exposed to and as such having a naked mole rat with a mutated (inhibited) tumor suppressor AND a mutated (enhanced) tumor promoter is such a rarity that we simply haven't been able to find one.
  • Based on the picture (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Korbeau (913903) on Tuesday October 27, 2009 @09:17PM (#29892485)

    I'll be happier dying at age 50 of cancer than looking like a naked mole rat!

  • by wizardforce (1005805) on Tuesday October 27, 2009 @09:47PM (#29892711) 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. On the topic of mice, there is a line of mice that is quite resistant to cancer [slashdot.org] as it is. As of yet, it is unknown what factors are responsible for this immunity. Other mice have been genetically modified to be highly resistant to cancer [sciencedaily.com] using other tumor suppressor genes. The article is from sciencedaily so take it with a grain of salt.

  • by Xiph1980 (944189) on Tuesday October 27, 2009 @10:05PM (#29892843)
    Plus, they can run as fast backwards as they can forwards, which just is awesome....
  • p16 is not new (Score:4, Interesting)

    by scapermoya (769847) on Tuesday October 27, 2009 @10:15PM (#29892915) Homepage
    I am an undergraduate at UC Berkeley and am currently taking a class on cancer, especially the genetic basis for its development. One of the professors is Steve Martin, a famous cancer researcher. Even if I wasn't in this class, I would know that p16 is a well-known gene. They definitely did not discover it in this study. This article is very misleading. Humans definitely have p16 [wikipedia.org], is it vital to the normal cell cycle. It is also frequently mutated in melanomas, one of the most vicious cancers. It is most likely that this group has found that naked mole rat cells use p16 in a unique way as it relates to certain types of cancer transformation pathways. Bear in mind that this sounds like this was a completely in vitro study, and so there is no proof this this gene behaves this way in wild mole rats.

    All that being said, this could still turn out to be a big discovery. If they can identify the molecular mechanism behind the improved cancer suppression, it could lead to novel treatments.

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