An electrical switch for cancer?

A new type of electrically active cell can turn stem cells cancerous from a distance

Stuart Blackman
Oct 18, 2010
Biologists have identified a new cell type in vertebrates that remotely mediates the transformation of stem cells into either healthy skin cells or cancerous melanoma, providing a potential new tool for researchers in both oncology and regeneration biology.
A model of melanocyte control
by transmembrane potential of
remote "instructor cells".
Image: Disease Models and Mechanisms.
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In a paper published Tuesday (19 October) in Disease Models and Mechanisms, the researchers, led by linkurl:Michael Levin;http://ase.tufts.edu/faculty-guide/fac/mlevin11.biology.htm of Tufts University, describe how, by manipulating the voltage across the cell membranes of these so-called "instructor cells" in frog tadpoles in vivo, they have been able to dictate the fate of the descendants of neural crest stem cells "with exquisite specificity." De-polarizing the cells led to aggressive, metastatic melanoma. A similar effect was found...
The ScientistD. Blackiston et al, "Transmembrane voltage gradient in GlyCl-expressing cell population controls behavior of neural crest derivatives in vivo," Disease Models and Mechanisms, 2010. doi:10.1242/dmm.005561, 2010.