Researchers from the Instituto de Medicina Oncológica y Molecular de Asturias have found that a protein responsible for accelerated aging disorders can dramatically slow down the spread of cancers.
The team revealed that prelamin A, responsible for accelerated ageing in a condition called progeria, can prevent the progression of malignant or cancerous tumours. They achieved this by using mosaic mouse models, genetically modified mice bearing the protein prelamin A in half of their cells.
Ageing and cancer are intimately related processes, but their links are complex. The risk of developing tumours increases with age, but some of the mechanisms favouring ageing can also slow down the appearance and development of cancer. The results from this study represent an advance in the understanding of the underlying biological mechanisms that link age and cancer development, as well as possible new drug targets in the future.
"Mice with prelamin A in all their cells age more quickly and do not live longer than 4-5 months, which extremely hampers the study of cancer, as there is no time for the disease to fully develop,"indicates Jorge de la Rosa.
Researchers previously developed mice that have an underactive ZMPSTE24 gene that mimic the ageing disorder progeria to test for possible treatments. This causes the protein prelamin A to accumulate and in turn results in progeria. To better study the association of ageing and cancer development, the team developed a mosaic model where ZMPSTE24 was underactive in half of the cells and working normally in the other half of the cells.
"Mosaic mice, however, live as long as normal mice, up to two to three years, and they keep 50% of cells with prelamin A in all their tissues throughout lifespan, which has permitted us to study the effect of this protein on cancer," comments Juan Cadiñanos.
The team found that the mosaic mice were completely healthy, without any of the physical deformities shown by mice with prelamin A-induced progeria: reduced size and weight, loss of fat, infertility and premature death. This suggests that it might not be necessary to correct the defects in all the cells of patients with progeria, but only some. These results provide hope for a successful treatment of patients with progeria in the future.