Smell receptor fuels prostate cancer progression
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IMAGE: Stimulating an olfactory receptor in prostate cancer cells caused the cancer to morph into the more aggressive, castration-resistant form of the disease. Duke scientists suggest that blocking the receptor with… view more 

Credit: Tatjana Abaffy

DURHAM, N.C. — When scientists first described the receptors responsible for our sense of smell, they naturally assumed that these chemical sensors resided exclusively in the lining of our noses.

But then olfactory receptors started turning up in the strangest places — the lungs, liver, skin, heart, testes and intestines. Nearly a quarter of a century later, researchers are still wondering what these receptors are doing in such disparate locations.

Duke researchers have shown in new research that one olfactory receptor plays a critical role in the progression of prostate cancer. They found that activating an olfactory receptor called OR51E2 in prostate cancer cells caused the cancer to morph into the more aggressive, ‘castration-resistant’ form of the disease.

The finding suggests that taking the opposite approach — blocking the receptor with specific molecules, or perhaps even with specific scents — could provide a new way to treat prostate cancer.

“When you smell a specific odor, the molecules you inhale go into your bloodstream.

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