Which chemical bonds can we safely build in our cells?
A study has found that even a small amount of a particular chemical can trigger the growth of a large number of cells, which could pave the way for the construction of large biomaterials.
In a paper published today in the journal Nature, scientists from the University of Queensland, the University’s Centre for Nanotechnology and Nanotechnology (CNNT) and the University College London (UCL) found that the chemical known as phenylalanine (PAA) was able to stimulate growth of the stem cells of a mouse model of pancreatic cancer.
The researchers were able to show that the compound also induced cells to undergo differentiation into the different types of cancer cells that are present in the tumour, which led to their being able to form cancerous tumours.
“It was really exciting to see that we can stimulate growth at the cellular level, which has never been seen before,” lead researcher Dr Sarah Smith said.
“This is exciting because it suggests that this compound is a powerful chemopreventive agent that could be used to build tumour-specific, cancer-specific and metastatic cells, or to generate new tissues and organs in our bodies.”
In a previous study, we showed that we could stimulate the growth in the human pancreas of mice and that this caused them to be able to differentiate into other types of cells.
“The study used a mouse cell line known as Pancreatic Stem Cell Line-2, which was grown in a petri dish, in order to observe how the compound affected cell growth and survival.”
Our work showed that PAA was able, in this case, to trigger cell growth in a very specific manner,” Dr Smith said, adding that she was excited to see this effect repeated in humans.”
We’re also finding that PDA can also induce cell differentiation into tumour cells and induce the development of cancerous cells.””
If you have cancerous cell cells in your tumour it’s important to do your best to destroy them so they can die, otherwise you’ll be able continue to grow your cancerous tumor,” she said.
The team found that PEA is able to inhibit the growth and differentiation of the pancreatic stem cells, while stimulating their growth in mice that were engineered to grow in response to PAA.”
When you suppress the growth, you can actually see cells grow and mature.
“The growth of cancer-associated tumour cell lines is very similar to the growth seen in normal pancreatic tumours, which means that there is a lot of evidence that PADA can be used therapeutically to treat pancreatic cancers,” Dr Adam Wilson, who led the study, said.
“It is exciting that this is one of the few molecules that has been shown to suppress the proliferation of pancreatal stem cells.”
Dr Wilson said that in a few decades the use of PAA-based drugs could be a real possibility.
“There are a number of drugs that we have identified that target pancreatic cell proliferation,” he said.
“PAA has been used in this way previously and it is one such compound.”
However, the potential to develop drugs that inhibit the proliferation in pancreatic cells is not yet well understood.
“If we are able to develop a drug that can inhibit the tumours growth and growth in response, then it may allow us to use this compound to treat some types of pancreatatic cancers.”
The research was supported by the Australian Research Council’s Nanotechnology Centre and the Australian Strategic Research Infrastructure grant to the University.
The ABC contacted the University for comment but did not receive a response by the time of publication.