Irving Weissman and Fang Qian of California's Stanford University have discovered a protein that mimics the adhesive action of Velcro fasteners, a trait that could help in preventing cancer cells spreading from a tumour to other parts in the body (New Scientist, Vol 143, No 1933).
Called integrin alpha4-beta1, the "Velcro protein" exists in a dormant state on cell surfaces. The two scientists are now trying to find out how to activate the protein and once they do, cancerous cells could be made to stick to each other and to inflamed blood vessels.
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