“Researchers are paving the way for new ‘cellular surgery’ in their search for the origins of cancer” – Miriam Stoppard
Honestly, medical research is getting more and more amazing.
Researchers at the University of Warwick are paving the way for a new “cell surgery” in their search for the origins of cancer.
A bit of context first. When a cell divides, it makes a copy of each chromosome and then shares them equally between the two new cells.
This process is carried out by a machine in the cell called the mitotic spindle.
But when a cell divides abnormally, it doesn’t share the correct number of chromosomes between the two new cells, and this can be the first step in cancer formation.
New research from Warwick Medical School has discovered how and why this happens, using cell surgery.
This advances our understanding of the origin of cancer and could lead to its prevention.
When something goes wrong at the stage of cell division, the two new cells will be aneuploid, meaning they won’t have the correct number of chromosomes.
This means they will make mistakes when sharing genetic information.
Cancer cells are also aneuploid, so understanding how and why this happens is extremely important in discovering the origin of disease.
Professor Stephen Royle’s research team at Warwick have identified exactly that with their research.
They found that some chromosomes can get trapped and lost in a tangle of membranes around the cell spindle, preventing chromosomes from being shared properly, leading to abnormal cell division that can cause cancer.
They made their discovery by performing a kind of surgery on living cells.
The researchers brilliantly invented a way to remove the tangle of membranes in which the chromosomes are trapped and as a result the chromosomes were saved by the spindle, thus allowing normal and healthy cell division.
This proved, for the first time, that the blockage of chromosomes in these membranes is a direct risk factor for the formation of cancer cells.
Understanding this risk can lead to more effective cancer prevention.
Professor Royle said: “Many scientists working in cell division focus on the spindle – how it works and why it makes mistakes in cancer. In this article we have shifted the spotlight and looked at membranes at the inside dividing cells.
Dr Nuria Ferrandiz, lead author, said: “We discovered that chromosomes can get trapped in membranes and that spells disaster for the dividing cell. It has the potential to transform a normal cell into a cancerous cell. Preventing this can be a way to treat the disease.
This is a major advance in the treatment of cancer.