Understanding how cells communicate
A research paper caught my eye this week (this is a geeky post…) it was published in Nature and shows that something called “TERT” talks to the “WNT” signalling pathway. You can read more about this on the Nature website “Telomerase link to WNT signalling“ You can read a slightly more reader friendly summary on Science News Daily called “New connection between cancer cells and stem cells” Why is this research important? What does it mean? Well, if you have cancer now it probably won’t make much difference to you, but for future generations of scientists its another piece of a very large puzzle.
Imagine you were trying to study how people moved round Britain. You were working on the M4 motorway that links London and Swansea, you know this road is important because lots of people use it and there are lots of different cities on the way (visit http://www. motorwaymap.co.uk to see a handy map of the UKs motorways). You also know there is a similar motorway called the M6 near Birmingham, but you are busy enough studying the M4 and trying to find out how that works. One day, one of your colleagues discovers that the M5 motorway links the M4 to the M6, suddenly, you become a lot more interested in both the M5 and the M6 because they affect how things work on your “patch” the M4. This is exactly what has happened with the TERT/WNT stuff. Scientists have been working on WNT (or the M4) for years, other scientists have been working on telomerase (the M6) for an equally long time, but now, we understand that TERT (or the M5) connects both of these difficult, complex pathways together. We know both WNT and TERT are important in the development of cancer, if we can understand how they work normally we will get a better idea of what goes wrong when a cell becomes cancerous. Or as the supermarket advert says “every little helps…”