News of the WeekCell Biology

Immortalized Cells Seem Cancer-Free So Far

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Science  08 Jan 1999:
Vol. 283, Issue 5399, pp. 154-155
DOI: 10.1126/science.283.5399.154

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Last year scientists rendered normal human cells immortal by adding the gene for a chromosome-capping enzyme called telomerase (Science, 16 January 1998, p. 349). The accomplishment raised hopes that the cells might be used to replace cells lost to injury or diseases such as diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis. But because telomerase prevents normal cell senescence--one of the cell's several safeguards against cancer--it was feared that the altered cells might turn cancerous once in the body. Now, the same researchers who created the cells show that they can grow without displaying the typical signs of cancer. Some researchers caution, however, that the new work hasn't removed all the worries about using the cells in therapy.