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?
- Yellowstone Volcanic System Four Times Bigger Than Thought
- Columbia's Lame Oz Defense
- We Don't Hear Much About The 10,000 French Deaths At Gallipoli
- The Evolutionary Psychology Reason Some People Will Be Anti-GMO
- Pictures Of March 20th Eclipse From Svalbard
- Poison As Medicine And How Venom Can Sometimes Be A Savior
- It Shouldn't Be There: Henize 2-10 And The Cosmic Conundrum
- "Does this make any sense?Wormholes Untangle Black Hole Paradox - K.C. Cole, Quanta ..."
- "Good discussion. One would think that any sensible person could smell the snake oil even through..."
- "That is true. Matthew proposed it as a hypothesis. He actually invited naturalists to test it by..."
- "It is an absolute shame that such a brilliant doctor is being crucified in the media, although..."
- "I've got to say that I reserve some measure of awe at the P.T. Barnum gall some people have. Belle..."
- 'Time is money' thinking hurts the environment
- Cell phones distract parents watching kids on playgrounds
- Cheaters and the cheated: Biased reports on international students don't help
- Conservation win: Hawaiian Honeycreeper hatches its way back from the brink of extinction
- Despite pediatric guidelines, babies as young as 6 months using mobile media