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World first discovery

30 April 2015

In the first week of January the Malaghan Institute’s website attracted over 30,000 new visitors – mostly from overseas – as news of a cell biology breakthrough spread around the world.  Cancer Cell Biology Group Leader Mike Berridge and his team, working on breast and melanoma cancer models, discovered that DNA moves from surrounding normal cells to tumour cells with defective mitochondrial DNA.

Senior Research Officer Carole Grasso’s beautiful images highlighting the transfer of fluorescent mitochondria across nanotube membrane connections between cells have been reproduced internationally.

This research opens new possibilities for controlling tumour growth and spread throughout the body. The research could lead to new approaches to treat cancer; to encourage mitochondrial transfer to tumour cells with damaged mitochondrial DNA, and to encourage mitochondrial respiration which discourages tumour growth.  Like many discoveries scientists make while investigating one disease, there are implications for another; it may be that this new understanding also offers future treatments for neuromuscular and neurodegenerative diseases involving the sensory organs, and even ageing.

Mike has just visited his co-leader Professor Jiri Neuzil of Griffith University in Queensland and says their publication has opened several new opportunities for collaboration with scientists at the Pasteur Institute in Paris, Virginia Commonwealth University in the USA, the Garvan Institute in Sydney and with others closer to home.