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Disease Area Metabolism & Diabetes, Imaging, Cancer

Bite-size Breakthroughs: IELS, Imaging and Ocular Cancer

Backfiring metabolism

Intraepithelial T lymphocytes (IELS) found within the gut may play a role in many common conditions, including obesity, diabetes, hypertension and atherosclerosis, according to Nature Letter (1). The cells are believed to slow down metabolism in mice by limiting the availability of the hormone incretin GLP-1 – perhaps a form of evolutionary adaptation to help the mouse deal with food scarcity. Now, with food in abundance, the energy-saving mechanism may be backfiring in humans, raising important questions about the prevention and treatment of metabolic diseases.

Outgrowing your surroundings

How do pancreatic cancers establish themselves and grow? A mystery for decades, a new 3D imaging technique developed at the Francis Crick Institute appears to be uncovering some answers (2). By imaging the pancreas at individual cell resolution, the team was able to better understand tissue shape and structure. According to the researchers, pancreatic cancer growth could be divided into two distinct categories – endophytic growth into the duct, and exophytic growth outwards into the surrounding tissue. Using the new images, the team developed simulation software capable of modeling the interior of the pancreas, and discovered that growth was dependent on the size of the duct; smaller ducts forced cancer to try to escape into its surroundings. The work could have implications in understanding cancer growth not just in the pancreas, but throughout the human body.

Targeting retinoblastoma

A phase 1 study in patients with the pediatric solid tumor retinoblastoma has produced promising results for a new oncolytic viral therapy (3). Using the VCN-01 adenovirus, researchers were able to induce tumor necrosis with limited complications. The virus selectively targeted tumor cells with abundant levels of the E2F-1 transcription factor, which is produced as a result of dysfunctional RB1 signaling – a hallmark of retinoblastoma. The researchers are optimistic that the approach could eventually lead to a tumor-selective and chemotherapy-independent treatment option for retinoblastoma.

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  1. S He et al., “Gut intraepithelial T cells calibrate metabolism and accelerate cardiovascular disease,” Nature Letters [Online] (2019). Available at: Accessed January 30, 2019.
  2. H A Messal et al., “Tissue curvature and apicobasal mechanical tension imbalance instruct cancer morphogenesis,” Nature Letters [Online] (2019). Available at: Accessed January 30, 2019.
  3. G Pascual-Pasto et al., “Therapeutic targeting of the RB1 pathway in retinoblastoma with the oncolytic adenovirus VCN-01”, Sci Transl Med. 23, 476. (2019). PMID: 30674657

About the Author

Jonathan James

As an assistant editor for The Translational Scientist, I can combine two of my passions; translational science research and science communication. Having thrown myself into various editing and other science communication gigs whilst at University I came to realise the importance of good quality content that delivers in an exciting and engaging way.

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