BY TIM BONFIELD
The Cincinnati Enquirer
A study published Tuesday involving University of Cincinnati researchers may help advance anti-cancer treatments based on a concept called "programmed cell death."
Programmed cell death is a basic function of normal cells. Previous research has found that cancer, Alzheimer's disease, multiple sclerosis and other diseases appear linked to malfunctions of the normal cell-death process. Many doctors, however, have been concerned that tinkering with such a basic cell process could have severe consequences.
The study, in Tuesday'sedition of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, was led by Dr. Ming Xu, an assistant professor of cell biology at UC. It also involved researchers at Vanderbilt University and the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas.
The yearlong study, completed in June, involved tracking mice that had been genetically engineered to lack a key protein involved in programmed cell death. After following three generations of the "knock-out" mice into young adulthood, researchers found no severe consequences from lacking the protein.
The mice also did not develop cancer or other target diseases, but researchers cautioned that the mice were not exposed to known cancer-causing agents and they were not followed into older age. "We expected to see significant consequences, but the mice looked normal," Dr. Xu said.
It will be several years before humans directly benefit from this research. The next steps include more testing to see if the genetic engineering actually helps prevent cancer and other diseases in mice.