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Mighty mouse conquers cancer
June 29, 2008 7:49 PM   Subscribe

1999: Researchers at Wake Forest University discover an incredible oddity: a mouse resistant to many forms of cancer. The resistance is found to be inherited (Pubmed link). 2006: They show that cancer resistance can be transferred (Pubmed link) to non-resistant mice. 2008: They've found that the resistance is mediated through blood cells called granulocytes, and that some humans potentially have the same ability to resist cancer. Now they need your help.

Also: the discoverer, Zheng Cui, describes "The winding road to the discovery of the SR/CR mice". Just another instance of Asimov's famous quip, "The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds new discoveries, is not 'Eureka!', but 'That's funny...'" Makes you wonder why they haven't found the mutation that causes the resistance, though.
posted by greatgefilte (20 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite

 
They also figured out a way to Cure diabetes in mice with a simple injection of Substance P. They also figured out a completely different way to do it in 2001. Truly, the advances we are making in mouse health are incredible.
posted by delmoi at 8:01 PM on June 29, 2008 [9 favorites]


And the MRL mouse can regenerate itself. I know we've all heard it before, but isn't it hard not to have a little optimism, though?
posted by greatgefilte at 8:23 PM on June 29, 2008


i don't mean this to be a troll, i just lost two family members in the last year, one to cancer. people dying isn't a bad thing, we have a finite amount of resources to go around. part of me reads this stuff with optimism, but i also have a great deal of doom and gloom associated with it.
posted by andywolf at 8:39 PM on June 29, 2008


Personally, while this is awesome and all, I'm more excited about the possibility of curing auto-immune diseases by re-adding parasites [nyt] to our biota.
posted by thecaddy at 8:48 PM on June 29, 2008


1. Participate in trial.
2. Discover you have the super cancer-killing leukocytes.
3a. Profit! or
3b. Spend rest of life in secure facility being bled three times a day to cure the Cabal.

It's not worth the risk!
posted by nowonmai at 9:02 PM on June 29, 2008 [1 favorite]


3b. Spend rest of life in secure facility being bled three times a day to cure the Cabal.

3b1. Spend rest of life while not being bled in forced-matings to increase the supply of super cancer-killing bloodcow people for the Cabal to bleed.
3b2. Realize that in order to extract the greatest reproductive effort from each participant, their counterparts would have to be chosen for maximal attractiveness and skill.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 9:44 PM on June 29, 2008 [1 favorite]


Note this key phrase: "resistance to both ascites and solid cancers induced by transplantable cells."

I don't know of anyone with cancer induced by transplantable cells. I'm not saying that they aren't onto something (and I know that lots of big companies making anti-cancer drugs are looking at things that prod the immune system), but there's room for a whole lot of things to not work out.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 9:46 PM on June 29, 2008


Definitely click "continue reading" at the bottom of the second link. The article walks you through the sequence of experiments used to investigate the anti-cancer mechanism. It's a wonderful narrative of the research process. It describes how the researchers answered questions like:Continue Reading...
posted by ryanrs at 9:46 PM on June 29, 2008


Forced bleeding? Guys, we just collect you and take some of your bone marrow. You go out drinking and a day or two later you wake up in an alley somewhere not really knowing what happened and looking and feeling like someone wacked you in the hip with a baseball bat.

Laymen have no idea how science works.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 9:49 PM on June 29, 2008 [1 favorite]


Cui's story is amazing. A mutation appears in a mouse being used for cancer research that makes the mouse immune to cancer. The mouse doesn't die from unrelated causes before it can be bred or even at the hands of the researcher and I wonder how many times that unhappy occurrence has happened in the past without our knowing. And then a perfect storm of prior commitments and careers results in discovery of another facet of the immunity. It's totally mind blowing in a James Burke kind of way.
posted by Mitheral at 10:26 PM on June 29, 2008


people dying isn't a bad thing

(boggle)

Yes. Yes it is. If you don't think so, you're welcome to accept it with equanimity. I, on the other hand, would club little old ladies to be first in line for some biotech that would prolong a healthy lifespan.

I don't expect such tech to be available soon enough for me, but that's a different question.
posted by Justinian at 10:50 PM on June 29, 2008


Cancer treatment by fungus nanowise.
posted by Brian B. at 11:28 PM on June 29, 2008


people dying isn't a bad thing

(boggle)

Yes. Yes it is.


You are saying that YOU dying is a bad thing. You are not saying that death in general is good. If there was tech that could keep you alive indefinitely, and it was widely available, how would we determine who gets to live and who gets the axe in order to make room for new meat? Or do we just stop having babies so that the current stock of meat can keep buying Apple computers indefinitely?
posted by spicynuts at 8:56 AM on June 30, 2008


Metafilter: the current stock of meat ... buying Apple computers indefinitely
posted by Mental Wimp at 9:08 AM on June 30, 2008


Cancer is a really fucking bad way to die. We should do everything in our power to stop people from suffering like that. If that causes other hard decisions in the future, fine, but allowing people to suffer from preventable diseases is not the best way to go. How about we cure cancer, then have mandatory euthanasia at four-score years and ten?
I walk past a major cancer hospital every day, and it breaks my heart to see all those little kids being carried in and out with their bald heads and spindly limbs. Cancer is not a disease of old people. If we pause to think for a second, I'm sure we all know somebody who has suffered from cancer whether as a child or a young adult.
If you read the stuff linked in this post, you'll see that it's really only younger mice who are cancer-resistant. it would be a huge leap to say that things might work out similarly in humans, but maybe that's the case. This research could quite well lead to treatments for cancers in younger people but not the elderly in any case.
posted by nowonmai at 9:32 AM on June 30, 2008


If you read the stuff linked in this post, you'll see that it's really only younger mice who are cancer-resistant.

Actually, it was the younger mice that were only completely resistant. The older mice developed tumors, but then got rid of 'em just as well as the younger mice.
posted by greatgefilte at 9:34 AM on June 30, 2008


how would we determine who gets to live and who gets the axe in order to make room for new meat? Or do we just stop having babies so that the current stock of meat can keep buying Apple computers indefinitely?

You're welcome to choose whatever you want. I suspect most people would choose the tech that helps them live longer.

I don't think the "making room" think will be a significant issue in the time horizon we're talking about. It's not like this stuff is showing up tomorrow.
posted by Justinian at 11:13 AM on June 30, 2008


I suspect most people would choose the tech that helps them live longer.


Precisely...which is why most people would not be allowed to choose it.
posted by spicynuts at 12:50 PM on June 30, 2008


That doesn't make dying a good thing; it makes not dying a complicated matter that would require planning and care. Given the choice between facing certain death and facing a complicated issue that we'd have to resolve in order to all keep on living, I know which problem I'd rather face.

Too bad we don't get a choice, Kurzweil disciples non-withstanding.
posted by Justinian at 3:06 PM on June 30, 2008


spicynuts, you make a good point, but we can't not cure disease. That's simply not on the table. Another example of this--we can't not explore space. We can't not climb Mt. Everest. This is stuff, for better or worse, that humans just do.
posted by zardoz at 9:56 PM on June 30, 2008 [1 favorite]


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