By Maryam Sarah Ahmed
A cell is like a machine – it is made up of many different parts called organelles, which each have a different function but all work together to perform a particular task. The centrosome is an organelle which has the function of helping cells divide to produce new cells. Our cells receive wear and tear, just like machines when they have been used for a long time, and some of them need to be regularly replaced. For example, the cells on our skin surface are always in contact with the outside world, and we need to make new skin cells very frequently – approximately every 30 days. Cell division is how new cells are made to replace old ones, and centrosomes are essential in this process.
However, sometimes even useful mechanisms in our body can end up harming us. When a person’s cells start dividing too often, they may get cancer – a disease, currently having no cure, which is caused when cells grow and divide uncontrollably. These cancer cells lump together to form a tumour, which may lead to the destruction of nearby cells . Some cancer cells may also break off from the tumour and spread to different parts of the body, forming new tumours and resulting in the spread of the cancer. Research has shown that centrosomes may be involved in both the formation and spread of cancerous cells.
Normal, healthy cells have one centrosome. In some cancer types, the cancerous cells have extra centrosomes – this condition is called centrosome amplification. Amplified centrosomes have an abnormal structure which may cause the cell to become cancerous and form a tumour. New research has revealed that centrosome amplification could also be linked to the communication of tumours with surrounding cells, which may result in the increased growth and spread of those tumours.
As research continues to imply a link between centrosome amplification and cancer, future treatment could focus on centrosomes. One potential cancer treatment could be inhibiting the effects of centrosome amplification, so that although the centrosomes are still abnormal in number and structure, they stop forming new cancerous cells. Another option is reversing centrosome amplification – bringing the number and structure of centrosomes in a cell back to normal. This could prevent both the growth and spread of new tumours. However, the exact cause of centrosome amplification is yet unknown and needs to be identified before it can be reversed.
Studying centrosome amplification and understanding its causes could lead to breakthroughs in cancer treatment. Many drugs targeting proteins associated with the centrosome have already been developed – these drugs are used to treat different cancers by controlling and inhibiting the effects of centrosome amplification. Hopefully in the future, new treatments will be developed that could completely reverse centrosome amplification. If this happens, cells containing extra centrosomes or irregularly shaped centrosomes could be altered so that these organelles are present in the correct number and structure. This will better prevent the growth and spread of cancerous cells.
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