Leukemia: on the trail of cancerous cells
Cells carrying a "bar code" may be identified by specific DNA sequences, just like bar codes, which they pass on from one generation to another as cells divide. Their "genealogy" can also be reconstructed to understand which stem cells come from mature cells, and we can also track their movements within the body. By implanting these cells in an animal model, researchers will observe how the disease progresses and how some cells that carry genetic mutations of interest spread within the body. They have found that all of the diseased cells carry the same genetic anomaly, but that this anomaly is also present in healthy people. It is therefore not sufficient to explain the disease. They suspect the influence of a micro-environment around cells that promotes the appearance and development of cancer. This work will lead to new prospects for research into understanding the process by which cancerous cells invade, and into the means of combatting it.