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Scientists Find Way to Turn Cancer Back Into Healthy Tissue in Lab

Photo Courtesy of Mayo Clinic

Photo Courtesy of Mayo Clinic

A new discovery could eventually slam the brakes on cancer and shift it into reverse.

Mayo Clinic researchers in Jacksonville, Florida believe they’ve discovered a way to turn cancer cells back into healthy tissue.

The research is only lab-based for now, but the researchers are hopeful they’ve discovered a new mechanism for fighting – or even curing – cancer.

As cells get older, they’re supposed to quit dividing, but that doesn’t happen with cancer cells; they continue multiplying to form tumors. The researchers discovered a breakdown in communication within the body that allows cancer cells to continue dividing – and they’ve found a way to reprogram those cells.

They have identified a previously unknown link between two parts of cell growth – cell adhesion and microRNA (miRNA).

Cell adhesion holds cells together and sends information to miRNA to control their growth. When that communication breaks down, cancer cells can grow out of control.

The Mayo Clinic researchers discovered that if they pumped more miRNA into the cells, it re-established that communication and reversed the process. Lead researcher, Dr. Panos Anastasiadis, said it’s like applying “the brakes” to restore normal cell growth.

“It’s a significant step forward in understanding how certain cells in our body know when to grow, and when to stop,” Henry Scowcroft, Cancer Research UK’s senior science information manager told the Telegraph. He, and the Mayo Clinic researchers, say there is still a lot of work to be done before they’ll know if their discovery can work in actual cancer patients.

The research findings were published in the journal Nature Cell Biology.