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Study of regeneration to identify cancer

Study of regeneration to identify cancer

The processes that underlie regeneration and carcinogenesis have much in common. Researcher Nicholas Lee studies the connections and differences. In the long term, this could lead to new ways to treat cancer. A grant of three million kroner from the Lundberg Research Foundation goes to cutting-edge technology that opens up completely new possibilities for his research.

Regeneration is the ability of organisms to restore lost or damaged body parts. Salamanders are an animal species that is very good at regeneration and are characterized by the ability to reproduce an extraordinary number of structures – from limbs and tails to eyes and internal organs. At the same time, it appears to be cancer-resistant. If salamander cells are exposed to the same conditions that lead to cancer in human cells, cancer does not form in salamander cells.

“The processes that underlie regeneration and cancer are very similar. But while salamanders have good control over both regenerative growth and cancer growth, we humans seem to have an inability to regenerate while having no control over cancer growth,” says Nicholas Lee, M.D., Ph.D., Ph.D. Lecturers and researchers at the Department of Laboratory Medicine at Lund University: “We want to understand the similarities and differences.”

His research team studies the cells that control the regeneration process and compares what happens in them with what happens in cancer cells.

“We want to know more about the mechanisms behind both cancer and regeneration and to find out how salamander regeneration is turned on and off. Knowing this may lead us to an opportunity to find some kind of off switch for cancer as well.”

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Controlling the growth of cancer cells
Conventional cancer treatment mainly involves killing cancer cells. Some of the newer treatments revolve around stopping the harmful growth of cancer cells while allowing them to survive. In a similar way, Nicholas Lee believes that by learning from regenerative processes, one should be able to make a cancer cell, for example, not divide as much.

“If we had absolute control over cell growth, we wouldn't need to eliminate all the cancer cells. Instead, we might be able to change them into cells the way we want and we could develop them into something else.”

Laboratory research is changing
New technology is currently creating major changes and new opportunities in laboratory research in general. Among other things, the scope of research can be expanded from being carried out mainly on mouse and human cells to so-called model organisms*.

“It's a big difference. Now we can choose the organism or model we want to look at based on the characteristics it has, and that's exactly what we do with salamanders. “They have special, interesting abilities and we want to know how they work,” Nicholas explains to me.

Paradigm shift
Thanks to a three million kroner grant from the Lundberg Research Foundation, Nicholas Lee and his colleagues can become part of this important development. The money was used in a device called “BD FACSDiscover S8 Cell Sorter with BD CellView Image technology. Through it, researchers can easily identify and sort the cells they want to closely examine. Large quantities can be processed very quickly.

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“It's about thousands of cells per second. If I have a sample of a million cells, I can use the device to quickly pick out 5,000 cells with certain characteristics that I want to look at closely, and then they're sorted directly into a separate test tube. We'll be able to produce a lot of “The new equipment gives us completely new opportunities, and I consider it a paradigm shift.”

*Model organism: A non-human species that is studied in detail to understand special biological phenomena, with the expectation that discoveries made in the model organism will lead to understanding how other organisms work.

the pictures:
1. Nicholas Lee Photo: Nicholas Lee
2. From right: Anna Fossum, Nicholas Lee, Chimezi Harrison Umino, and Marilyn Oesterle working with newly purchased equipment, Photo: Alexis Pinto-Lewis

For more information please contact:

Christina Backman
Chairman of Board of Directors
Lundberg Research Foundation
Mobile: +46 727 19 70 45
[email protected]

Olly Larco
Member of the Board of Directors
Lundberg Research Foundation
Mobile: +46 734 33 71 40

[email protected]

Nicholas Lee
University lecturer and researcher
Department of Laboratory Medicine,
Lowndes University

[email protected]

Ingabrit and Arne Lundberg Research Foundation It was founded by Ingabret Lundberg in 1982 in memory of her husband, wholesaler Arne Lundberg, who was born in 1910 in Gothenburg. The purpose of the foundation is to promote medical scientific research mainly related to cancer, kidney disease and orthopedics and to give priority to the purchase of devices, aids and equipment. In the years 1983 to 2023, 607 grants with a total value of SEK 1,050 million were awarded, of which SEK 36 million were awarded in 2023. Research within the Gothenburg region receives priority. The foundation's headquarters are located in Gothenburg.

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