Zurich – Researchers in Zurich have discovered a new approach to treating cancer. They have found out that various stem cell types are innervated in distinct ways. Influencing this process of innervation could have the potential to halt cell growth.

Cells promote the growth of nerves. This includes cancer cells. According to a press release issued by the University of Zurich (UZH), its researchers have been able to verify this in two studies. Intervening in this communication between stem cells and neurons creates new possibilities for artificial regeneration of tissue as well as for treating cancer.

In the first study, the research team headed up by Thimios Mitsiadis, Professor at the Institute of Oral Biology at UHZ, compared the interaction of neurons with two different types of stem cells in the dental pulp and bone marrow. Both can be transformed into various cell types such as bone, cartilage and fat cells. To this end, “Organ-on-a-Chip” technology is used. This simulates the basic functions of human organs and tissue. The researchers have discovered that both bone marrow stem cells and dental pulp stem cells are highly promising options for the regeneration of functional, properly innervated facial tissues.

In the second study, the team examined the interaction between nerves and cancer stem cells found in ameloblastoma, an aggressive tumor of the mouth. These cancer cells also attracted nerves and established contact with them. “It appears that nerves are fundamental for the survival and function of cancer stem cells”, explains Pierfrancesco Pagella, co-author and junior group leader.

Thimios Mitsiadis summarizes the value of the team’s research findings: “These results create new possibilities for cancer treatment using drugs that modify the communication between neurons and cancer stem cells”.

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