Dr Michaela Frye
Stem cells – cells that can turn into any type of specialist cell – play hugely important roles in our bodies, helping us develop and maintain our tissues throughout life. But they can also go wrong, growing out of control and forming a tumour. At the University of Cambridge, Dr Michaela Frye heads a research group looking into the cellular systems that keep these cells controlled and maintained, and how mistakes in these systems can lead to cancer.
Frye’s team have already shown that alterations to a molecule called RNA – DNA’s ‘chemical cousin’ – play a role in controlling the fate of these cells. Now they’re extending that work, looking at whether stem cells – both normal and in cancer – use these RNA alterations as a way to protect themselves from death when their DNA is harmed, for example by UV rays or cancer drugs.
Alongside adding information to our cancer biology knowledge, this work is important because it could lead to the discovery of new targets for cancer treatment. And if these targets are unique to cancer cells, that could lead to the development of more precise, more effective treatments for patients.