Developing fruit flies, busily changing from a maggot into a fly, have some unusual biological tricks inside themselves. These structures are imaginal discs – clumps of cells that will become the eyes and antennae in the adult fly – which have been exposed to high doses of X-ray radiation (right) or left untouched (left). Researchers have discovered that although damaged cells die at a high rate after an X-ray assault (highlighted with a red fluorescent dye), they trigger any surrounding survivors to grow back vigorously, filling in for their fallen neighbours and regenerating the damaged tissue. The same process seems to happen in human cancers: many tumours have a pocket of stubborn stem cells that have become resistant to the cell-killing effects of chemotherapy and radiotherapy, enabling the cancer to come raging back. By figuring out how this happens, scientists hope to find new ways to improve the effectiveness of cancer treatments.
Written by Kat Arney
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