When a cell is faulty or in danger it’s a matter of life or death. Normally, cells in this situation commit suicide. If they don’t they may become cancerous – rogue cells growing without check. One molecule involved in the process of cell suicide is PUMA, which causes a chain reaction that ends in annihilation. But now PUMA has also been found to encourage growth. By inhibiting PUMA in the developing mouse eye (right), scientists find fewer, less branching blood vessels (shown in green) than in the normal eye (left). This discovery suggests that blood vessels need PUMA to grow. Taking advantage of its lethal tendency, PUMA has been previously investigated for treating cancer. This new discovery, however, shows an unexpected complexity that will warrant caution. Switching on PUMA in cancer treatment could have unforeseen consequences.
Written by Georgina Askeland
BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC London Institute of Medical Sciences the website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biomedicine. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.