Cancer protein smiles at researchers

At the gene expression lab at Westmead Millennium Institute for Medical Research, NSW, a radioactively tagged protein appeared to have formed a smiley face, the researchers said.

They captured the image, which shows a beta-catenin protein moving into the cell nucleus, on video and have posted it on YouTube.

The head of the laboratory, Dr Beric Henderson said beta-catenin activates genes which turn normal cells into tumour cells, and the research aims to discover the mechanism by which it takes over the cell nucleus with a view to future drug targets.

“We spend 90% of our time going down dead ends, and sometimes you feel as though a disease is having a cackle at your expense,” he said.