Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Dealing with Stress

Understanding more about the response of cells under stress

20 March 2021

Dealing with Stress

The daily grind challenges not just our spirit, but our cells too. How they handle life’s constant wear and tear isn’t fully understood. Researchers examined healthy breast cells’ response to damage, and discovered an unexpected role for a well known protein, CTCF (coloured purple). CTCF is involved in processing genetic material and it pools in the cell control centre (nucleus, blue). The study found that when stressed, these pools are dissolved (middle) – a process that relies on particular enzymes, without which CTCF remained undepleted (right). It seems CTCF fine-tunes genetic activity to keep cells poised for particular action, but that under stress it's disabled, locking certain characteristics and safeguarding against disease development. In chronically stressed cells, this link between CTCF and stress is lost entirely, which may leave cells exposed. Future treatment approaches may address this weakness, to help us all handle the stress of everyday life.

Written by Anthony Lewis

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