12 August 2014
Living cells thrive on communication, yet sending the wrong message at the wrong time can be deadly. Pictured top-left, pink and green cells in developing tissues (artificially coloured with their DNA stained blue) are exchanging chemical signals. Mutated genes have left the green-coloured tissue tumourous and overgrown. The tumour cells send out signals coaxing the neighbouring pink-coloured healthy tissue (also highlighted in white, top-right) to join in the abnormal growth. This is a well-known cancerous tactic, but all is not quite what it seems here – signals sent back from the healthy cells provoke the tumour to grow even further. Removing the healthy cells interrupts this cancerous exchange and limits the tumourous growth (pictured on the bottom). These tissues, taken from fruit flies (Drosophila), share many genes in common with humans and reveal details about how tumours interact with their surrounding microenvironment, one of the hottest topics in cancer research.
Written by John Ankers