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Dangerous Relationship

Cancer-causing cell features senescence and chromosomal instability are related to accumulation of mitochondria

07 August 2021

Dangerous Relationship

Cancer is a disease of many varied faces, but two characteristics common to the development of many cases are senescence – when cells stop growing and dividing, linked to ageing; and chromosomal instability – when a cell’s paired packages of DNA unevenly replicate or falter, leaving an imbalance. A new study has revealed a link between the two. Cells with unbalanced chromosome numbers accumulate excessive mitochondria (cell components coloured green in the fruit fly wing section pictured), which cause stress and trigger senescence. Senescence halts the natural cell cycle, preventing further growth and sending out an alarm call to the immune system for elimination. If not dealt with promptly, their presence can prompt abnormal nearby growth, leading to cancer. Reducing the excess mitochondria could decrease the number of senescent cells, and hence counter the negative impact of chromosomal instability, so is a potential target for new treatments.

Written by Anthony Lewis

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