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A new study carried out by researchers in the Department of Zoology and Department of Oncology has used flat worms to look at the role of migrating stem cells in cancer.

A shielded X-ray irradiation assay used to study migration in vivo shows planarian stem cells (green) and their progeny (magenta) distributed throughout the anteroposterior axis (left), in a stripe after targeted X-ray exposure (middle) and then migrating to the anterior (right). Cell nuclei (blue) are labelled with Hoechst. Image credit: Prasad Abnave

Researchers from the Aboobaker lab in the Department of Zoology used the worms (planarians) which are known for their ability to regenerate their tissues and organs repeatedly. This process is enabled by their stem cells, which constantly divide to make new cells.

Cell migration – or the movement of cells from one part of the body to another – is a key function of cells in our bodies. New stem cells are constantly required to maintain tissue and organs functions, and they are expected to migrate to where they are needed. However, control of these movements can fail, and cancers can form when these cells migrate to places they aren’t supposed to be.

By understanding how stem cells are programmed to move, what activates them and how they follow a correct path, researchers may be able to design new treatments for cancer.

Read more (University of Oxford website)

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