Move over, Mighty Mouse. University of Kentucky researchers say they have created a cancer-resistant "super mouse."
Vivek Rangnekar, a University of Kentucky College of Medicine professor of radiation medicine and a team of researchers say they have found a tumor-suppressor gene called "Par-4" in the prostate.
The researchers discovered that the Par-4 gene kills cancer cells, even highly aggressive types, but not normal cells, according to a study published in the journal Cancer Research and funded by grants from the National Institutes of Health.
Rangnekar's study found that mice born with this gene do not develop tumors. They grow normally, have no defects and actually live a few months longer than the control animals.
"We originally discovered Par-4 in the prostate, but it's not limited to the prostate," Rangnekar said in a news release. "The gene is expressed in every cell type that we've looked at and it induces the death of a broad range of cancer cells including, of course, cancer cells in the prostate."
For the study, Rangnekar's team introduced the gene into the egg of a mouse. That egg was then planted into a surrogate mother.
"The mouse itself does not express a large number of copies of this gene, but the pups do and then their pups start expressing the gene," Rangnekar said. "So we've been able to transfer this activity to generations in the mouse."
Through bone marrow transplantation, the Par-4 molecule potentially could be used to fight cancer cells in humans without the toxic and damaging side effects of chemotherapy and radiation therapy, according to the study.
"The interesting part of this study is that this killer gene is selective for killing cancer cells," Rangnekar said. "It will not kill normal cells and there are very, very few selective molecules out there like this."
Rangnekar said more research is needed, including research to see if the gene works in humans.