Archive for ‘Cell biology’

November 4, 2011

Cell-Aging Hack Opens Longevity Research Frontier

This is pretty important, even though it’s only a proof of concept – not even a first step to developing a useful therapy for age-related health afflictions. What’s been done is to show that a state (senescence), which old cells reach when they near the limit of their useful lives, is not just a somewhat benign way of stopping the cell from becoming cancerous. Instead, senescent cells that aren’t eliminated naturally (by the immune system or by apoptosis) and remain in the body can degrade the health of the organism. Further, causing such cells to be eliminated is not only possible, but improves the organism’s overall health even though it does not lengthen lifespan. (And even this much has only been demonstrated in genetically altered mice, not humans.)

Cell-Aging Hack Opens Longevity Research Frontier

Research into longevity, that most fundamental and intractable of all human health challenges, moves slowly. It deserves to be described in terms of years, not individual studies. But once in a rare while, a finding has the potential to be a landmark.

Such is the case with a new experiment that flushed old, broken-down cells from the bodies of mice, slowing their descent into the infirmities of age.

The large caveats that inevitably apply to mouse studies still apply here, in spades. But even with those, the findings mark the first time that cellular senescence — its importance debated by biologists for decades — has been experimentally manipulated in an animal, demonstrating a fantastic new tool for studying its role in human aging.

The research involved a series of experiments, and if you’re up on your molecular biology, the details are interesting.

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September 15, 2011

Obscure Organelle in Stem Cells and Cancer

Stem cells and cancer cells seem to have more in common besides an ability to divide much more freely than normal adult cells – the persistence of structures called midbodies that are, as currently understood, important only in cell division. This raises the question of whether midbodies have functions, besides helping in cell division, that are common to both stem cells and cancer cells.

Obscure Organelle in Stem Cells and Cancer – The Scientist

Cellular structures known as midbodies, formed during cell division, appear to accumulate in stem cells and cancer cells, hinting at a potential function for these once-disregarded organelles.

Midbodies, once considered the rubbish of cell division, might have a function beyond their role in getting daughter cells to separate. Researchers show in today’s Nature Cell Biology that stem cells and cancer cells collect used midbodies, whereas differentiated cells digest the organelle through autophagy.

Further reading:

Midbody accumulation through evasion of autophagy contributes to cellular reprogramming and tumorigenicity