Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Double Agent PUMA
20 November 2012

Double Agent PUMA

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

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