Many cells form communities, sometimes in unexpected ways – not all bacteria in a community are exactly identical – they take different roles, and they can have a group intelligence, perhaps in a similar way to that shown by ants and bees. The cells are not monoclonal (identical in function), they are multi-clonal. This time the research is into cancer cells, which are often multi-clonal - they have several distinct states or metastases
- Epithelial – cell types that stay in one place in the body
- Mesenchymal – cells that can move around the body
- With cancer cells there is also a hybrid “in-between” state, with similarities to a stem cell
Studying these changes in cell state may give more information about how to disrupt the changes, after all, epithelial calls that just sit there are not necessarily a major issue if they never “spread”, and mesenchymal cells that wander around the body may not cause a problem if they never “settle”. The researcher hopes that he may be able to find a way to re-program cancer cells and disrupt their communication systems. From New Scientist, 25th Jan 2014.