Cell competition in normal physiology and cancer
Can we learn how to exploit cell competition to design new therapies?
Competitive interactions occur between cells in tissues, resulting in fit cells (winners) being able to colonise tissues as they kill and replace less-fit cells (losers).
We are exploring how cell competition could be harnessed for therapeutic strategies in regenerative medicine and cancer. Towards that aim, our goal is to understand the impact of cell competition on tissues and the mechanisms that cells use to compete. We combine two complementary approaches: studies in Drosophila to capture the complexity of these interactions in vivo, and mammalian cell culture to follow the dynamics of cell competition, including by live imaging.
Our recent work using the adult fly intestine shows that in adult homeostatic tissues, cells compete and healthy cells eliminate subfit cells by apoptosis. Conversely, we found that cell competition leads to healthy tissue expansion, by promoting stem cell proliferation and increased symmetric self-renewal. We believe that this could be exploited to promote stem cell repopulation in regenerative medicine therapies.