A group of American scientists have figured out how to turn cancerous cells back into healthy tissue, reports Science Alert.
Researchers at the Mayo Clinic in Florida have found that when they inject the unhealthy cells with certain biological processors, they can stop the cells from multiplying out of control and restore normality.
Because cancer cells are just regular cells that grow abnormally, it is highly difficult to destroy the cancerous cells without blasting healthy ones along with them. As the cells in our bodies grow and replace each other, they eventually receive the message to stop replicating. Cancer cells miss this step, often forming tumors.
Now, the lab scientists have figured out the biological processors that give cells a blueprint for growth, called microRNAs, control the production of PLEKHA7, a protein that form incorrectly in cancer cells. When they inject extra microRNAs into cancer cells, PLEKHA7 production restarts and grows normally.
"By administering the affected miRNAs in cancer cells to restore their normal levels, we should be able to re-establish the brakes and restore normal cell function," lead researcher Dr Panos Anastasiadis said, according to the BBC.
It all sounds a little bit like a miracle cure-all, but there is still a lot of work to do before this can be adapted to treat living human beings. The research was done in a lab, using cells from human breasts and bladders, so, while Anastasiadis has called the initial experiments "very promising," the ground-breaking lab findings are only the first step.
"This important study solves a long-standing biological mystery, but we mustn't get ahead of ourselves," Cancer Research UK's senior science information manager, Henry Scowcroft, said. "There's a long way to go before we know whether these findings, in cells grown in a laboratory, will help treat people with cancer. But it's a significant step forward in understanding how certain cells in our body know when to grow, and when to stop. Understanding these key concepts is crucial to help continue the encouraging progress against cancer we've seen in recent years."