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September 9, 2010 / Martijn

These Cells Will Self-Destruct

Cancer is a difficult disease to treat because it’s a personal disease. Each case is unique and based on a combination of environmental and genetic factors. Conventional chemotherapy employs treatment with one or more drugs, assuming that these medicines are able to both “diagnose” and “treat” the affected cells. Many of the side effects experienced by chemotherapy patients are due to the fact that the drugs they are taking aren’t selective enough. For instance, taking a drug that targets fast-growing tumor cells frequently results in hair loss, because cells in the hair follicle are among some of the fastest growing in the body. When it comes down to it, these drugs get the diagnosis wrong.

But what if we had cancer treatments that worked more like a computer program, which can perform actions based on conditional statements? Then, a treatment would kill a cell if–and only if–the cell had been diagnosed with a mutation. Only the defective cells would be destroyed, virtually eliminating unwanted side effects.

via nsf.gov – National Science Foundation (NSF) News – These Cells Will Self-Destruct in Five … Four … – US National Science Foundation (NSF).

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