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St. Jude Identifies the Specific Cell That Causes Eye Cancer, Disproving Long-Held Theory
Date:10/18/2007

they can't divide, and if they try to divide, they undergo cell death," Dyer said. "This is the first time that anyone has shown that under certain conditions, a fully mature and differentiated nerve can undergo cell division and multiply."

The discovery that fully differentiated horizontal interneurons can multiply to form retinoblastoma also challenges the established scientific belief that cancer cells are most aggressive when they are undifferentiated, Dyer said. For example, the leukemic cells of chronic myelogeneous leukemia (CML) are much less aggressive when they are differentiated; and it is generally not aggressive until the tumor cells sustain mutations that block differentiation.

An important implication of this finding is that if researchers were able to alter the activity of certain genes in fully developed neurons, they might be able to trigger them to multiply temporarily and replace the neighboring neurons that were lost as a result of neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's, Dyer said. "Having nerves duplicate themselves might be more efficient than trying to stimulate nerve replacement by inserting stem cells into the brain, since the existing nerves would already be in the right place to restore missing brain cells," he said. "However, there is still a lot of research required to determine if it is possible to control gene activity to make this approach practical."

Other authors of this paper include Itsuki Ajioka, Rodrigo A. P. Martins, Ildar T. Bayazitov, Stacy Donovan, Samantha Cicero, Kelli Boyd and Stanislav S. Zakharenko (St. Jude); Dianna A. Johnson (University of Tennessee Health Science Center, Memphis) and Sharon Frase (University of Memphis).

This work was supported in part by the National Institutes of Health, the National Cancer Institute, the American Cancer Society, Research to Prevent Blindness, Pearle Vision Foundation, the International Retinal Research Foundation, the Whitehall Foundation, NA
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SOURCE St. Jude Children's Research Hospital
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