http://www.ted.com For decades, researcher Mina Bissell pursued a revolutionary idea -- that a cancer cell doesn't automatically become a tumor, but rather, ...
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Every one of our cells has the same genetic material and all the information to make an entire human. For decades, research biologist Dr. Mina Bissell has pursued her revolutionary idea that a cancer cell does not automatically become a tumor, but rather, depends on surrounding cells (its microenvironment) for cues on how to develop.
Communication between the tumor cells and its surrounding cells helps drive the process of tumor progression. So tumor growth is driven not only by what is happening inside the tumor cell itself but also by what is happening around it.
All cells within a structure are surrounded by a complex mixture of material that makes up the extracellular matrix (ECM). The ECM, composed of water, proteins and polysaccharides provides not only essential physical scaffolding for the cells but also initiates crucial biochemical and biomechanical cues. Each tissue has an ECM with a unique composition generated during tissue development.
So cells exist and function within a particular context – being the microenvironment and ECM. For example, animal tumor cells transplanted into a similar animal cause cancer to develop, however transplanted into an embryo they do not. Therefore if you change the context, the function of the cell can change. These principles are at the heart of the research done by Dr. Mina Bissell.
It may be feasible that if the context within which the cell exists gives important messages, then perhaps tumor cells with abnormal genomes should be capable of becoming normal if that context is modified.
This reinforces the importance of epigenetics, environmental characteristics, and lifestyle habits as having significant positive or negative influence over how our genes are expressed and how cancer develops.