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Lung cancer cells spread like unanchored tents, study says

25 November 2016

Lung cancer cells spread like unanchored tents, study says

Spreading lung cancer cells are like tents which have collapsed and are adrift in the wind, scientists from the University of York have discovered.

Communication between two proteins is what triggers the cell tent to lose its shape and become unanchored, their research found.

This allows the cells to travel to other areas of the body.

The researchers said their findings could help prevent the spread of lung cancer.

Writing in the Journal of Clinical Investigation, researchers from York and the University of Texas describe how the communications centre of a cell - known as the Golgi apparatus - receives a signal from proteins which prompts the movement of membrane sacks inside it.

This movement alters the shape and surface of the cancer cell, allowing it to break free from its moorings and move around freely.

Dr Daniel Ungar, from the University of York's biology department, said it was apt to think of the cancer cell resembling a tent structure.

"It has fixed sides to hold its shape and is firmly anchored to the ground in order to secure its contents.

"In order to move the tent, we have to rearrange its contents and collapse its sides in order to lift it out of its anchored position and carry it away," he said.

He added that a similar process happens with cancer when it spreads - its outer edges are altered leaving it unanchored.

The study found that a protein called Zeb1 was critical to this process and the research team now want to look at how to target the protein without damaging healthy cells, in which the protein also exists.

The researchers only looked at lung cancer cells and do not know if the same process occurs in other cancers.

Bumper load of new viruses found

An international research team led from Australia and China has discovered nearly 1,500 new viruses.

The scientists looked for evidence of virus infection in a group of animals called invertebrates, which includes insects and spiders.

Not only does the study expand the catalogue of known viruses, it also indicates they have existed for billions of years.

The findings were published in the journal Nature.

Few would argue that all living species on Earth are susceptible to viruses – these microscopic parasites are ubiquitous.

But virologists have long suspected that our current view of the diversity of viruses is blinkered – all too often constrained to those causing disease in humans, animals and plants, or to those that we can grow in the laboratory.

A trip to a tropical rainforest or the African savannah gives a snapshot into the incredible diversity of visible life on Earth, but understanding the potentially mind-boggling myriad of minuscule viruses has not been so easy.

Capturing new viruses is not like netting a new species of butterfly – viruses are invisible.

Undeterred by this practical problem an international team was keen to survey invertebrates for new viral species.

Invertebrates are spineless creatures and the group includes many familiar animals, such as insects, spiders, worms and snails. They represent the vast majority of animal species in the world today.

Scientists wanting to work out the totality of viral "life" – although many virologists would argue that viruses are not truly alive – are starting to adopt techniques that reveal their genetic calling cards, revealed in the things they infect.

Autumn Statement: Row as care funding omitted from measures

Health and social care leaders have condemned the chancellor's Autumn Statement as a missed opportunity to announce new investment.

There had been calls for more funding for council-run social care in England, amid concerns that limits to care were leaving patients stuck in hospitals.

But predictions of "looming chaos" were rejected by the chancellor.

Philip Hammond said a previously-announced NHS funding commitment was in line with what its leaders had wanted.

Cuts in social care funding in England have been blamed for a sharp increase in the number of patients stuck in hospital beds because care cannot be arranged elsewhere.

One suggestion for the Autumn Statement was for local authorities to be allowed to raise more from council tax.

The chancellor did not offer new resources either for the NHS or social care when outlining the Treasury's plans, only confirming that ministers would be sticking with departmental spending announced last year.

What do you think? Are you concerned about lung cancer? What virus would you be the most worried about? What do you think about the UK's care situation? 

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