Why would a cancer cell want to destroy its own functioning mitochondria? "It may seem pretty counterintuitive," admits M.D.-Ph.D. student Brinda Alagesan, a member of Dr. David Tuveson's lab at CSHL.
According to Alagesan, the easiest way to think about why cancer cells may do this is to think of the mitochondria as a powerplant. "The mitochondria is the powerhouse of the cell," she recites, recalling the common grade school lesson. And just like a traditional powerplant, the mitochondria create their own pollution.
Byproducts - Pollutants - Oxygen - Species - ROS
"These harmful byproducts, or pollutants, are called reactive oxygen species, or ROS," Alagesan adds. "A lot of it can be damaging to cells. We believe that [by eating their own mitochondria] the pancreatic cancer cells are reducing the production of these damaging ROS while still making enough energy to proliferate."
This is still a hypothesis but it could explain why pancreatic cancer cells become prone to mitophagy, a form of autophagy or 'self eating' of their mitochondria.
Journal - Cancer - Discovery - Alagesan - Author
In the journal Cancer Discovery, Alagesan and co-lead author Dr. Timothy Humpton describe what happens when a protein called KRAS becomes active in...
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