Robert Weinberg, MIT professor of biology and Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research member, has created cancer stem cells in a Petri dish by isolating and transforming a particular population of cells from human breast tissue. After being injected with just 100 of these transformed cells, mice developed tumors that metastasized (spread to distant tissues).
“The operational definition of a cancer stem cell is the ability to initiate a tumor, so these are cancer stem cells,” declares Weinberg, who is also an MIT professor of biology.
Engineering these potent cells was not the original intent, says pathologist Tan Ince. As a post-doctoral researcher in the Weinberg lab and gynecologic pathologist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, he was simply trying to create breast cancer models that look like real human tumors under the microscope and behave like those seen in many patients.
In more than 90 percent of human breast tumors, cancer cells resemble those lining our body’s cavities. A trained pathologist can spot the similarities under a microscope. But the cancer cells previously engineered from normal breast cells for laboratory studies looked different. Ince suspected that researchers were transforming the wrong type of cells.
Now an independent investigator at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and an instructor at Harvard Medical School, Ince developed a recipe for a new chemically defined culture medium and managed to grow a different type of human breast cell that ordinarily dies in culture. He transformed it into a cancer cell by inserting specific genes through a standard procedure.
The engineered cells proved to be extremely powerful. When Ince injected more than 100,000 of them into a mouse with a compromised immune system, it quickly developed massive, deadly tumors. In initial experiments, a few tissue slices revealed a primary tumor structure that resembled that of cancer patients with metastases.
That prompted Ince to wonder whether the cancer cells he created would metastasize if the mouse lived longer. He repeated the experiment in other mice, reducing the number of cells in the injection to as few as 100 in hopes of slowing tumor growth. The cancer cells continued to seed tumors and those tumors metastasized. In sharp contrast, scientists must inject about 1 million cells to get a tumor when working with the cancer cell lines routinely used in the laboratory.
“In the process of making a model that reflects a tumor type common in patients, I created tumor-initiating cells,” Ince explains. “That was a complete surprise.”
“This work could provide a boon to researchers who study these elusive cancer stem cells by offering a bountiful source of them,” maintains Weinberg. “Labs can easily grow the newly created cells for use in experiments.”
Source: Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research
- PHYSICAL SCIENCES
- EARTH SCIENCES
- LIFE SCIENCES
- SOCIAL SCIENCES
Subscribe to the newsletter
Stay in touch with the scientific world!
Know Science And Want To Write?
- Matter Can Potentially Accelerate The Expansion Of The Universe
- Unique Fragment From Earth’s Formation Returns Home
- The Number Of My Publications Has Four Digits
- Metal Hip Replacements Implanted Since 2006 More Prone To Failure
- Does lower literacy make you a sucker for online health ads?
- Professor Frenkel: Why Shouldn't We Drop Algebra From Our Education System?
- The Universe, Where Space-time Becomes Discrete
- "Even using Wikipedia, an illustration of the conventional prejudice on the matter energy density..."
- "In Reading University Library there is a most interesting book Felix Klein and Sophus Lie by I..."
- "Correction (will merge this into the article later): Orange dwarf stars have lifetimes of 15 -..."
- "Lobos, after what you say about academia, I still wander why you keep the Harvard Veritas coat..."
- "For a pedagogical introduction to the Friedmann equations, see for instance this set of lectures..."
- Parents' presence at bedside found to decrease neonatal abstinence syndrome severity
- Breastfeeding app shows promise in supporting first-time mothers
- Study shows asthma-related Twitter posts can predict rise in hospital visits
- Mental health diagnoses rise significantly for military children
- Combination of face-to-face and online bullying may pack a powerful punch