Scientists have discovered that normal cells can acquire characteristics of immune cells and send warning signals when they are stressed or in danger. The mechanism is part of the body's system for removing older cells, a natural part of the aging process known as senescence.
In this sense, they consider that the system can also help the body to detect cancer cells before, so that they can be eliminated before the tumors are formed.
Senescence prevents cells from dividing and damaged cells continue to grow. The process is driven by the stress of the cell. It is also triggered when the genes that have the potential to cause cancer, called oncogenes, are activated.
Researchers at the University of Edinburgh have discovered that the key immune molecules within cells, called TLR2 and TLR10, detect when oncogenes are activated. This initiates a cascade of chemical signals that cause inflammation and activate immune cells to eliminate the damaged cell.
It is known that TLR12 and TLR10 are important for the detection of infections such as bacteria and viruses, but this is the first time that they have been found to play a key role in normal cellular aging. The study, published in 'Science Advances', was carried out in the Cancer Research UK Edinburgh Center of the University of Edinburgh.
Dr. Juan Carlos Acosta, of the University of Edinburgh, explains: "The results of the study broaden our knowledge of the molecular mechanisms that control senescence and can lead to new strategies for the development of anti-aging therapies based on the manipulation of the innate immune receptor. "
For his part, Dr. Matthew Hoare, clinical scientist and honorary consultant of the Cancer Research Institute of the United Kingdom in Cambridge, notes that "the damaged cells that cause cancer become senescent and then are eliminated by the body's own immune system. However, if the immune system does not destroy the senescent cell, the surrounding tissue can become inflamed, promoting cancer development. "
"This is an area of great interest for research, since senescence has the potential to stop the development of cancer in the early stages," he adds. These findings show for the first time that damaged cells that cause cancer use TLR2 / 10 signaling to ignite, presenting possible pharmacological targets and that could help the body eliminate senescent cells before they cause damage. "