Luminescent mice to aid cancer and ageing studies

Scientific Developments/Breakthroughs

A new study has utilised specially created luminescent mice to visualise the biological processes underpinning ageing and tumor growth.

Using genetic material from fireflies, the University of North Carolina Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center team have developed a strain of mice that glow when the p16INK4a (p16) gene is activated.

This gene is known to play a role in ageing and cancer suppression by activating a tumour defence mechanism called cellular senescence, with this new mouse model able to demonstrate the process visually, glowing brighter when p16 activation levels were high.

Using these specimens, the researchers were able to reach several unexpected conclusions about the process that could inform future human health research.

Dr Norman Sharpless, deputy cancer centre director at the university, said: "This work builds on previous work by the same group, as well as others, showing intriguing relationships among ageing, cancer and cell senescence. It provides a valuable new tool to probe these relationships."

According to the latest data from Cancer Research UK, there were 157,275 deaths from cancer in the UK during 2010, with lung, bowel, breast and prostate cancer accounting for 47 percent of this total.

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