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Cancer Cell Biology

The cancer cell biology research group, led by Professor Mike Berridge, focuses on understanding cell metabolism in relation to cancer and neurodegenerative diseases.

Cancer cells are known to alter their metabolism, changing the balance between mitochondrial and glycolytic production of ATP to allow them to better survive and metastasise. Previous work in the Cancer Cell Biology lab  revealed that cells entirely lacking mitochondrial DNA were unable to respire and form tumours unless they acquired mitochondria with mitochondrial DNA from normal cells via mitochondrial transfer.

The group is also following on from work that previously showed an up-regulation in chemokine signalling and other immune-related genes in cells under this metabolic stress. The team is investigating the modulation between mitochondrial and glycolytic ATP generation with altered mtDNA, what cell signals are the drivers of mitochondrial transfer, what immune responses are involved, and whether mitochondrial ATP is required for metastasis.

This research will help identify potential gene targets for preventing cancer cells from modifying their metabolism, carrying out mitochondrial transfer, and blocking immune interference in metastasis.

The Cancer Cell Biology team is also working on developing a gene expression based assay for Parkinson’s disease. This project involves monitoring the expression of a small number of genes that represent each complex of the electron transport chain coded for in the mitochondrial DNA, complex I, III, IV and V. This will be used to determine whether early changes in olfactory cells have the predictive power to diagnose Parkinson’s disease before onset of symptoms, and has the potential to become an applied diagnostic technique.