SciAm Blog Network :: Dynamic Mitochondrial Networks in Cancer | Guest Blog

Dynamic Mitochondrial Networks in Cancer | Guest Blog, Scientific American Blog Network.

One of the things I love about science is that the passion shown for it can be as much for the people around us as for the field itself. Who knows what would be left to discover if a single person hadn’t experienced some sort of suffering and thought “I wonder what I could do to change that.”

The blog post above is an example of just such passion. Through the pain of losing a loved one to lung cancer, Professor of Medicine at the University of Chicago, Stephen Archer, sought to explore the mitochondrial networks in cancer cells.

With the help of colleagues, including the author of the post, Jalees Rehman, Archer began to pave the way toward something great. The basis of the discovery was:

The mitochondria in the vast majority of cancer cells appeared to be small and fragmented, while healthy epithelial cells predominantly contained elongated, filamentous-like mitochondria that formed large intact networks.

Mitochondrial network of an endothelial cell is shown in green :: SciAm

Two of the players in cancer cell proliferation are Drp-1 and Mitofusion-2. Drp-1 is a mitochondrial fission protein while Mfn-2 is a mitochondrial fusion protein. (See the article for more information.)

Displaying the nature of scientists, Rehman questions what else is left to be discovered.

As with any research, our study also points towards many unanswered questions, some of them highlighting the importance of how the nucleus communicates with other organelles: what are the specific mechanisms by which preventing mitotic mitochondrial fission signals back to the nucleus and halts the progression of the cell cycle? How does the cell coordinate the dynamics of other organelles during cell cycle? Could the dynamics of other organelles also be therapeutically targeted in cancer cells?

The presence of mitochondrial fission may be critical in other diseases, such as Alzheimer’s. Whatever the future of this research holds is sure to be exciting!

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