News of Note—The role of immune cells in cancer metastasis; how staph bugs evade antibiotics

Circulating tumor cells traveling in the bloodstream are escorted by neutrophils, promoting the formation of metastases, Swiss scientists discovered. (University of Basel)

A new way to block cancer from spreading?

Immune cells known as neutrophils play a key role in cancer metastasis: They team up with cells from the primary tumor to promote the spread of the disease. But how? Scientists from the University of Basel and the University Hospital of Basel in Switzerland discovered that neutrophils protect circulating tumor cells (CTCs)—cancer cells that have left the primary tumor and are circulating in the bloodstream. By studying CTCs and neutrophils from patients and mouse models, they discovered that CTCs that stay in close contact with neutrophils proliferate more than distant cancer cells do. They believe their findings, published in the journal Nature, will inspire therapies based on exploiting vulnerabilities in CTC-neutrophil clusters. (Release)

How bugs acquire genes to resist antibiotics

Rutgers scientists have discovered that the bacterium Staphylococcus aureus can acquire two genes that allow it to resist treatment with antibiotics. The genes protect the bug from copper, a popular metal used to sterilize medical instruments. But the genes, called copB and copL, make proteins that remove copper from S. aureus cells, the Rutgers team discovered. The genes are encoded in transposons, which are pieces of DNA that can be moved from one organism to another. The scientists also uncovered the 3D structure of the copL protein, which they believe could aid in the discovery of new antibiotics. They published their research in the Journal of Biological Chemistry. (Release)

The quest for made-to-order kidneys

Japanese scientists reported that they made fully functional mouse kidneys inside rats, and they started with a handful of stem cells. The team, led by the National Institute for Physiological Sciences in Japan, used a technique called “blastocyst complementation,” which involved taking clusters of cells after egg fertilization from animals missing the organs and injecting them with stem cells from normal mice. The stem cells differentiated inside the rat blastocysts, forming kidneys. Although the technique, described in the journal Nature Communications, needs to be perfected, the researchers envision a day when human stem-cell derived kidneys could be grown in livestock. (Release)

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