Chemo hurts good cells! Study finds widespread ‘cell cannibalism’ and related phenomena across tree of life

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The findings challenge the common perception that cell-in-cell events are largely restricted to cancer cells. Rather, these events appear to be common across diverse organisms, from single-celled amoebas to complex multicellular animals.

The widespread occurrence of such interactions in non-cancer cells suggests that these events are not inherently “selfish” or “cancerous” behaviors. Rather, the researchers propose that cell-in-cell phenomena may play crucial roles in normal development, homeostasis and stress response across a wide range of organisms.
The study argues that targeting cell-in-cell events as an approach to treating cancer should be abandoned, as these phenomena are not unique to malignancy.

By demonstrating that occurrences span a wide array of life forms and are deeply rooted in our genetic makeup, the research invites us to reconsider fundamental concepts of cellular cooperation, competition and the intricate nature of multicellularity. The study opens new avenues for research in evolutionary biology, oncology and regenerative medicine.

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Cells in obligately multicellular organisms by definition have aligned fitness interests, minimum conflict, and cannot reproduce independently. However, some cells eat other cells within the same body, sometimes called cell cannibalism. Such cell-in-cell events have not been thoroughly discussed in the framework of major transitions to multicellularity. We performed a systematic screening of 508 articles, from which we chose 115 relevant articles in a search for cell-in-cell events across the tree of life, the age of cell-in-cell-related genes, and whether cell-in-cell events are associated with normal multicellular development or cancer. Cell-in-cell events are found across the tree of life, from some unicellular to many multicellular organisms, including non-neoplastic and neoplastic tissue. Additionally, out of the 38 cell-in-cell-related genes found in the literature, 14 genes were over 2.2 billion years old, i.e., older than the common ancestor of some facultatively multicellular taxa. All of this suggests that cell-in-cell events may have originated before the origins of obligate multicellularity. Thus, our results show that cell-in-cell events exist in obligate multicellular organisms, but are not a defining feature of them. The idea of eradicating cell-in-cell events from obligate multicellular organisms as a way of treating cancer, without considering that cell-in-cell events are also part of normal development, should be abandoned.

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h/t Emeraldlight

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