4 July 2016

Major Breakthrough in Explaining the Longevity of Cancer Cells

Sherbrooke researchers have made a major breakthrough in understanding the immortality of cancer cells that may lead to the development of new treatments.

The team led by Raymund Wellinger, a professor and researcher at the Université de Sherbrooke and the Centre de recherche du CHUS (CRCHUS – Research Centre), has identified three POP proteins—POP1, POP6, and POP7—involved in the role of telomerase, an enzyme involved in cell division and cell death.telomeres

Normal cells divide many times throughout their lifetime. Each time they split, the new telomeres (a portion of DNA located at the tip of chromosomes) are shortened. Telomeres prevent DNA degradation; after dozens of divisions, the telomeres are too short to fulfil their purpose, and the cell dies.

However, in cancer cells, telomerase is re-activated, effectively granting the cells immortality and by extension enabling them to duplicate endlessly.

By understanding the role of the three types of POP proteins (which are also involved in other cellular processes), “we may be able to harness this knowledge to target specific areas of research in the development of new cancer-fighting drugs and restrict the immortality of cancer cells,” explained Prof. Wellinger, Chairholder of the Canada Research Chair in Telomere Biology.

This Sherbrooke discovery is the result of four years of research and was recently published in the prestigious scientific journal Cell. It is worth mentioning that this is Raymund Wellinger’s third publication in this journal, which is a feat in and of itself!

Sources : Université de Sherbrooke and Centre de recherche du CHUS
Image : Hélène Beaudet, UdeS

» View the explicative video (in French)

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