Cancer is one of the most persistent diseases of all times. Although some people believe it is a modern times illness, it has actually been around for centuries. Some of the very first documented cases go back to 3000 B.C.
Seeing how long-lasting this disease has been, it’s only natural to ask ourselves: Can we actually beat this thing? Are we really capable of developing a treatment strong enough to withstand it?
The answer is yes, according to a group of researchers from the University of North Carolina, who have developed a technique that uses skin cells in order to destroy cancer.
Their research focuses on gliobastoma, which is an aggressive tumor, with an extremely fast progression, that forms astrocytes (cells which develop the brain’s supportive tissue).
Because astrocytes multiply so quickly, having a vast network of blood vessels around them, it is usually very difficult to treat this kind of cancer.
According to Dr. Shawn Hingtgen, who is an assistant professor at the University of North Carolina, the team’s objective was to find out whether those induced neural stem cells would have any impact on cancer and whether they could be used as a method of treatment for cancer patients.
In order to achieve this goal, the researchers reprogrammed skin cells named fibroblasts, transforming them into neural stem cells, thus producing a tumor-killing protein.
These cells, which normally produce collagen and develop the connective tissue, have the ability to hunt and destroy cancer cells.
For the purpose of this study, the scientists used mice, which were injected with these reprogrammed cells. They then used a physical matrix in order to keep them still long enough so they could hunt down the cancerous cells.
After applying this method, the researchers discovered that the mice’s chances of survival had increased by 160-220%, according to the type of tumor each one had and its location.
Typically, a patient who suffers from a glioblastoma has very few chances of surviving beyond two years, since this particular tumor is so difficult to treat. Nevertheless, this newly developed method of treatment could represent a glimmer of hope for these patients, who may not otherwise get to defeat this disease.
The study can be found in the journal Nature Communications and it is the first attempt to use a direct reprogramming technique as a method of treating cancer.
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