Researchers at the Mayo Clinic's Florida campus are trying to shut down cancer cell growth with MicroRNA proteins. While cell division and growth is normal in healthy cells, in cancer cells the process is disrupted. The researchers led by Dr. Panos Ansastasiadis, discovered a kind of code that they suggest can shut off tumor growth.
They discovered that adhesion proteins - the glue that keeps cells together - interact with the part of the cell that manufacture proteins called microRNAs (miRNAs). The miRNAs orchestrate whole cellular programs by simultaneously regulating expression of a group of genes. In healthy cells that come into contact with each other, a specific subset of miRNAs suppresses genes that promote cell growth. When this adhesion is disrupted in cancer cells, these miRNAs don't function properly and cancer cells multiply out of control. The investigators showed in laboratory experiments that restoring the normal miRNA levels in cancer cells can reverse the harmful tumor producing cell growth.