New Study Brings Hope
The research could benefit the almost 600,000 Americans expected to die of cancer this year, which is more than 1,500 people a day.
MU Professor John Tanner studies the proteins inside different cells. He didn't realize it at first, but has now discovered that one protein enzyme plays a role in cancer prevention by destroying damaged cells as part of the body's natural defense against cancer.
Tanner is part of a team of researchers that created a model of the proline dehydrogenase enzyme. He says the 3D representation can help scientists understand the enzyme's part in cell death. He says when the cells aren't working properly, the cells that should die start to divide and live.
"The samples can only be viewed with a microscope and are sent to a national lab for analysis using powerful x-ray beams," Tanner said.
Understanding the way the human body kills damaged cells could enhance cancer treatment in the future. Ideally, scientists could figure out how to jump start cell death in cancer treatment or even prevent cancer. But Tanner says cancer therapy based on this concept could take years to develop.
"One possibility, down the line, would be to figure out ways to activate this enzyme in order to produce cell death in specific cancer cells," Tanner explained.
The study done by Tanner and the rest of the team of researchers was published in the most recent issue of the Journal of Biological Chemistry.