Home » A Biological ‘Time Machine’ Converting Cancerous Cells ‘Back Into Normal State’

A Biological ‘Time Machine’ Converting Cancerous Cells ‘Back Into Normal State’

Within the glass platform of this microscope slide, researchers recreated two anatomical structures involved in the spread of pancreatic cancer.
Within the glass platform of this microscope slide, researchers recreated two anatomical structures involved in the spread of pancreatic cancer.
(Purdue University photo/John Underwood)

When you cannot stop what’s coming, sometimes you can start over. This seems to be strategy in a new experimental treatment for early-stage pancreatic cancer, which involves a new “time machine ” from the Purdue University that reverses the progress of cancer before it spreads throughout the organ, consistent with a new study published in the journal Lab on a Chip.

 And, depending on how farther studies progress, it could be enforced through gene cure.

 Early-stage pancreatic cancer has a ‘reset button’

“These findings open up the possibility of designing a new gene therapy or remedy, because now we can convert cancerous cells back into their normal state, ” said Professor Bumsoo Han of Purdue’s mechanical engineering, who is also the program leader for university’s Center for Cancer Research, in a blog post shared on university’s official website. Han also received a courtesy appointment in biomedical engineering, consistent with the post. The new time machine (speaking figuratively) from Han’s lab is a life-like reproduction of a specific structure of the pancreas, called the acinus, which secretes & produces digestive enzymes into small intestine. When pancreatic cancer strikes, it comes from chronic inflammation, which is caused-by a mutation that tricks digestive enzymes to begin digesting the pancreas itself. This is bad.

However, if there were a means to turn back clock of time and re-program the cancerous acinar cells that generate those enzymes, it could reset the status of pancreas. For a decade, Purdue’s Professor Emeritus Stephen Konieczny of Department of Biological Sciences has considerably explored the viability of this potent rest button. No, that is not a figure of speech, it is really as simple as that, the whole trick centers on a gene, called PTF1a. ” The PTF1a gene is absolutely critical for normal pancreas development,” said Konieczny in post. “If you lack PTF1a gene, you do not develop a pancreas. So, our whole idea was, if we turn PTF1a gene back on in a pancreatic cancer cell, what happens? Will we revert cancer phenotype? “

New early- stage pancreatic cancer treatment could use gene therapy

“Indeed, that is exactly what happens, ” said Konieczny, in answer to himself. He worked with Han’s lab to explore these findings in many molecular biology studies, testing the work in life-like model of the acinus. In other words, scientists tested a biological time machine and it worked. Conventionally, tests of promising pancreatic cancer treatments are first-implemented in animals, but illness can take months to do that happen in these creatures. Developing a way to research & develop cancer treatments in a micro-environment that emulates physical organ afflicted by the illness is sufficiently realistic, saving months or longer in development time, in addition to provide scientists unparalleled control over the model.

Incredibly, new model overcomes the substantial challenge of accurately capturing the anatomical complexity of acinus, which is a circular cavity lined with the living cells. ” From an engineering perspective, creating this type of 3D-cavity isn’t trivial, ” said Han in the post. ” So, figuring out a way to build this cavity is an innovation in itself. ” The model is a postage stamp-sized glass platform slapped onto a microscope slide and it possesses 2 inter-connected chambers. The scientists load one chamber with a collagen solution, which in turn fills finger-shaped duct of the pancreas. This, in turn, bulges & expands to create the structural cavity of the acinus, in the other chamber. While this unspeakably inspired work brings a novel means of reversing pancreatic cancer before it is too late, Han & his team are currently looking at potential of introducing the treatment through gene therapy.

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