An experiment led by scientists at Cold Springs Harbor National Laboratory has transformed cancer cells into muscle cells.
The team focused on rhabdomyosarcoma (RMS), a rare, soft-tissue cancer most often afflicting children. The illness rearranges chromosomes – packets of DNA – in the diseased tissue. That, in turn, produces a protein called PAX3 that accelerates the disease’s progress.
The researchers picked their way through the illnesses genes and eventually found some that could be edited in a way that redirected them from becoming more cancer cells to becoming muscle cells.
The edited cells turned their efforts from producing more tumor tissue to contracting, literally turning into muscle cells. Because the new cells devote their energy to contracting and their resources to making more muscle cells, they never return to being or producing cancer cells.
The technique can be applied to other kinds of cancer; already, the scientists have used it to turn sarcoma cells into healthy tissue.
TRENDPOST: Immunotherapy has made huge strides against cancer. This new treatment approach, known as “differentiation therapy,” represents an equally powerful advance.
Within a decade, most cancer is likely to become an illness that is routinely curable if diagnosed early enough.