Researchers at the University of Southampton have developed cells with a built-in genetic circuit, which generates molecule capable of suppressing the ability of tumors to grow and survive. It means those cells will actively prevent cancer in our body.
“There are various defense mechanisms built into human cells, such as proteins that spot DNA damage, but there are also gaps in this defense system that are exploited by disease,” One of the lead authors of the paper Professor Ali Tavassoli told Digital Trends. “We were wondering if it is possible to equip human cells with the ability to sense and respond to a disease marker, specifically by encoding the conditional production of a molecule that fights back when the start of a disease is sensed by the circuit we introduce.”
Tumors keep growing in a low-oxygen environment with the help of a protein called hypoxia-inducible factor 1 (HIF-1). When cellular oxygen levels fell and transmit signals for new blood vessels, HIF-1 becomes activated.
However, all cancers those need to be capable of surviving in low-oxygen environments hijacks the HIF-1, since they grow so fast that they exceed the stock of oxygen from the existing blood vessels around them.
“This link is well established and there is solid and validated correlation between HIF and cancer,” said Tavassoli.
The built-in genetic circuit technology that the researchers have engineered is able to produce HIF-1 inhibitor, which limits the function of cells containing HIF-1 to grow and survive in a low-oxygen environment.
Currently, the research is in its early stage, and not even close to human testing. However, the built-in genetic circuit is still an amazing development. It could help researchers to further study on tumor development and drug development.