Future Cancer Cure Found in the Cell's Microprocessor

August 31, 2015

Future Cancer Cure Found in the Cell’s Microprocessor


by Sonya Doernberg


The concept of microprocessors, which led to the invention of today’s tablets and smart phones, has moved to the domain of cellular biology, and in particular, to the latest breakthrough in cancer treatment.  Could there be some logic controlling the cells’ multiplication and exponential growth replicating in numerous bodily organs?


According to Antonis Kourtidis, Ph.D., the lead author and research associate at the Mayo Clinic’s Florida lab, the answer is yes. The name of the cell’s microprocessor is microRNA.  When microRNA is removed from a cell, the production of the adhesive protein (PLEKHA7) is disrupted, misaligning gene expression and causing cells to reproduce continuously.  On the contrary, restoring PLEKHA7 or microRNA to cancerous cells returns the cells to a benign state, Dr. Panos Anastasiadis, lab’s director, told the press.

What’s unique about this finding, according to Dr. Kourtidis, is that it “ brings together two unrelated fields of research — cell-to-cell adhesion and miRNA biology.”  They resolve a long-standing question about the role of adhesion proteins in cell behavior.


As exciting as this discovery sounds, it may face some of the delivery challenges of the more traditional cancer treatments, such as chemotherapy.  The pivotal question is how do you isolate and target cancer without destroying healthy cells in a body?  Dr. Anastasiadis told the press that his team is now working on better delivery options.  As with most research breakthroughs, it could be another five years or more before the discovery could be used as a cancer treatment.





Nature Cell Biology


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