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Hutchinson Center researchers first to induce state of suspended animation in model vertebrate organism

s of abnormal cells, and only a subset are multiplying at any one time. The vast majority of cells in a tumor are in a state of low oxygen tension and are non-proliferating - which is the reason that some tumors don't respond to certain forms of radiation and chemotherapy." Most chemotherapeutic agents work by selectively killing actively dividing cells, meaning that many quiescent, or non-dividing, tumor cells are immune to treatment.

Suspended animation also has a role in the growth of normal cells, Roth said.

"Stem cells - like those that give rise to your skin - are self-renewing and have the capacity to reproduce at certain times in your life," he said. "Some of those cells might be dividing right now, while others withhold their proliferation potential until a later time. Lots of scientists are interested in how cells maintain this state of quiescence and then resume cell division." The phenomenon also is critical for the normal development of many animals.

"Numerous organisms have naturally occurring states of suspended animation," Roth said. "About 70 species of mammals alone do this as a way to increase reproductive fitness. For example, mice delay implantation of their embryos in the uterus while they are lactating. The embryos halt implantation - and any further development - until lactation stops."

Zebrafish in the wild haven't yet been observed to undergo suspended animation, but the metabolic shutdown that Roth induces in his laboratory resembles the reversible state of limbo that has been observed in nature in other organisms.

Roth and Padilla, the paper's co-author, compared the developmental capability of zebrafish embryos that had been exposed to normal atmospheric conditions to those grown in anoxic (oxygen-free) chambers. Absence of oxygen caused development to arrest and all observable metabolic activity to cease - including a shutdown of the heart, which normally beats 100 times per minute. The researchers found that embryos 25
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Contact: Kristen Woodward
kwoodwar@fhcrc.org
206-667-5095
Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center
10-Jun-2001


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