In Pursuit of Immortality

Cell lines that have avoided senescence but kept their normal genome could provide new avenues for cancer research

How do human cells become immortal? Despite the important implications for cancer development, the process is not well understood. Now, a research team based in the Berkeley Lab, US, have developed a new method to create and study immortal human mammary epithelial cells (IHMECs). It is already possible to do this but the oncogenic agents used to create the cells result in multiple genomic errors, meaning the cells are not accurate models of cancer etiology. The new method generates cells with normal, stable genomes, providing a more accurate model for studying the process in the same way it actually occurs in human cancers; while human cancer tissue may contain many genomic alterations, only a small number of these are thought to play a role in disease development.