Chatter between cells can lead to cancer drugs

Cells chat with one another, ‘discussing’ what kind they will become — a neuron or a hair, bone or muscle. This breakthrough opens the way to develop cancer drugs that target these transactions and halt production of cancer cells.

Because cells continuously multiply, it’s easy to imagine a cacophony of communication.

But David Sprinzak, Tel Aviv University molecular biologistat the George S. Wise Faculty of Life Sciences, suggests cells know when to chat and when to shut up and let other cells carry on.

Sprinzak, working with California Institute of Technology (Caltech) researchers, has uncovered the mechanism that allows cells to switch from sender to receiver mode or vice versa, the journal Public Library of Science Computational Biology reports.

His breakthrough opens the way to developing cancer drugs that target these transactions, inhibiting or encouraging the flow of information among cells and halting production of cancer cells, according to a Caltech statement.

Sender and receiver behaviour, says Sprinzak, not only determines how cells differentiate normally but also how they differentiate in abnormal situations such as when cancer cells are growing.

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