Friday, September 08, 2006

Genes and cancer

I start the week with a post about something really exciting that I read in Science. Unfortunately my institution does not have access to articles in Science published online before they have been printed on paper so I had to be satisfied for the time being with the reports pusblished by conventional media like the Washington Post.

It seems that researchers have screened for and found 189 genes that are altered in colon and breast cancers. Although we are talking about only two types of cancer, breast and colon cancer are two of the most diagnosed cancers in the western hemisphere. It is remarkable that both types of cancer share very few cancer-related genes and that most of the genes discovered to have a role in these cancers have not been known to be so before.

Tumour supressor gene and aging

Read at the NYT: Researchers at the universities of North Carolina, Michigan and Harvard have found that p16 gradually inhibits the proliferation capabilities of stem cells when they reach certain age. The mechanism is useful to prevent the proliferation of cells that, due to their age, have a significantly increased probability of creating tumours.

The paper reporting the research will be published in Nature. One interesting comment by one of the authors is that in his opinion aging is not random but an anticancer mechanism. I find this observation plausible but having an interest in evolution I cannot help thinking that the reason for aging could also be that once an organism has fulfilled its replication duties, its evolutionary-shaped genetic program does not care much for the long term survival of the individual. In other words, evolution does not favour individuals who are good at surviving for ever but that are good at surviving for long enough as to have lots of equally successful offspring.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Article in high-performance computing magazine

It seems that the research at our group has been noticed by a news site specialised on high performance computing. Oh well, I guess it helps that our group (BIOS) is hosted in a department of high performance computing and that TU Dresden has just hosted a major conference on parallel computing.

For those interested, here is the link:

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Scientists find molecule that tricks cancer cells into dying

Taken from The Guardian, 28th August. It's molecular biology but still interesting: Scientists at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have found the way to restore apoptotic capabilities to tumour cells. It is known that tumour cells tend to have a defective apoptotic mechanism so they do not die when they should (eg. when the DNA repair mechanism is rendered useless).

One way to give back apoptotic capabilities to tumour cells is to provide the cell with a synthetic molecule that reactivates the production of enzymes involved in apoptosis. This is what Paul Hergenrother and fellow researchers seem to have acomplished.