Episode 7, Series 2 – Cell polarity and breast cancer

Hi again!

We’re back this week with a biology rich episode for you. No physics and no computer science this time, only the good old cells that make up our bodies (and those of all living things, in fact).

Scientists Professor Charles Streuli and Dr. Nasreen Akhtar from the Faculty of Life Sciences and the Wellcome Trust Centre for Cell Matrix in Manchester have discovered how cells from the breast know which way up they need to be in order to function properly and form healthy tissues. Epithelial cells from the breast are polarised. This means that they have a top and a bottom side that do different things. It is vital that these cells maintain their polarity and orient themselves with their “top and bottom” sides in the right direction, or else they will not be able to function properly. They also noticed that when cells lose their polarity, and thus their organisation, they start to resemble very much the kind of tissue structure that you get in the early stages of breast cancer. This suggests that cell organisation is one of the first things that is lost in cancer and therefore to understand how healthy cells work can help us to better understand and fight cancer itself.

If you’re really into heavy science reads, head over to Nature Cell Biology to read their recently published paper. However, if you don’t have journal access (I’m optimistic that one day soon science papers will be free to everyone!) or can’t be bothered to translate all the technical jargon into normal English, then the podcast might be perfect for you!

As always, let us know what you think, what you liked and disliked and get in touch with us if you’d like to share a good science story and be involved with the podcasts!

Greta & Ceri

Epithelial cell

Cells

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