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So Much for Immortality


It's thought that cancer cells are able to endlessly replicate themselves as they spread through the body. But far from being "immortal," a new study in Pigment Cell & Melanoma Research shows the cells seem unable to multiply at will, reports New Scientist's Andy Coghlan. By studying the molecular profiles of skin cancer cells as they grow in the lab, the researchers found that many appear to hit a "telomere crisis" and stop dividing when the tips of the chromosomes become so short that the cell mistakes them for DNA breaks and tries to repair them, Coghlan says. "The team found that the few cancer cells that are immortal activate telomerase reverse transcriptase, a part of the telomerase enzyme that rebuilds telomeres so they avoid a telomere crisis," he adds. Cancer Research UK recently launched a trial to stop the spread of pancreatic cancer with a vaccine made of fragments of telomerase reverse transcriptase and a similar vaccine against acute myeloid leukemia is being tested in California, Coghlan says.

The Scan

Pig Organ Transplants Considered

The Wall Street Journal reports that the US Food and Drug Administration may soon allow clinical trials that involve transplanting pig organs into humans.

'Poo-Bank' Proposal

Harvard Medical School researchers suggest people should bank stool samples when they are young to transplant when they later develop age-related diseases.

Spurred to Develop Again

New Scientist reports that researchers may have uncovered why about 60 percent of in vitro fertilization embryos stop developing.

Science Papers Examine Breast Milk Cell Populations, Cerebral Cortex Cellular Diversity, Micronesia Population History

In Science this week: unique cell populations found within breast milk, 100 transcriptionally distinct cell populations uncovered in the cerebral cortex, and more.