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Cells' ability to live without oxygen give clues for treating major diseases

Some cells in the kidney can not only survive without sufficient oxygen, but actually begin stretching and multiplying to make up for their fallen brethren, says a Medical College of Georgia researcher.

Some cancer cells similarly adapt; as a tumor grows too big for its blood and oxygen supply, some cells transform so they can survive without oxygen, emerging stronger and treatment resistant, says Dr. Zheng Dong, cell biologist.

He doubts that these two very different cell types travel the identical road to survival. "But the final result is the same," he says. "They simply become stronger, tougher and more resistant to injury, and for those in tumors, more resistant to cancer therapies."

The researcher, whose latest findings are featured in recent issues of the Journal of Biological Chemistry and American Journal of Pathology, is tracing the steps each takes, ultimately to see whether cells that would be lost to stroke and heart attack can be made equally durable and, possibly, whether cancer cells can be made vulnerable.

"We want to define the signaling pathways for cell injury and death. We want to know how these cells are killed," he says. "Our other focus is cellular adaptation to stress, basically why other cells can survive. We want to define the molecular alterations at the level of gene expression," which he believes are key to survival and proliferation.

He has found at least two key pieces to survival in the tubular cells of the kidney. Tubular cells are the most common cells in the kidney, comprising the extensive channels through which body's entire fluid volume flows many times each day so that needed substances can be absorbed and excess fluid and waste excreted in the urine. The cells are durable, busy and, likely because of their high activity, have a high oxygen demand.

Yet when the oxygen supply is lost or diminished, as it can be in cardiovascular disease and diabetes, Dr. Dong has found that
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Contact: Toni Baker
tbaker@mail.mcg.edu
706-721-4421
Medical College of Georgia
5-Sep-2003


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