Image of the Day: Morphing Cells

By removing a single gene, researchers change the developmental fate of tumor cells in mice.  

The Scientist Staff and The Scientist Staff
Mar 27, 2018

Stomach and intestinal cells found in mouse lung tumorsTATA LAB, DUKE UNIVERSITY

Researchers at Duke University School of Medicine have prompted cells normally found in the gastrointestinal tract to grow within lung tumors in mice.

They had analyzed lung cancer data from the Cancer Genome Atlas Research Network, a large consortium of genomes of cancer samples, and found lung cancer cells often lacked a gene called NKX2-1. They knocked it out in healthy mice and then activated the oncogenes SOX2 or KRAS to give them cancer. When the researchers examined the tumors from mice that lacked NKX2-1, they found some tumor cells had developed into gastrointestinal cells, their closest developmental counterpart.  

“Cancer cells will do whatever it takes to survive,” says Purushothama Rao Tata, a cell biologist at Duke University School of Medicine, in a statement. “Upon treatment with chemotherapy, lung cells shut down some...

P.R. Tata el al., “Developmental history provides a roadmap for the emergence of tumor plasticity,” Developmental Cell, doi:10.1016/j.devcel.2018.02.024, 2018.