Leukaemia is blood cancer where malignant immune cells colonise the immune system and stop them from making healthy blood cells.
The nucleus, enclosing the cell DNA, is the biggest structure inside cells. It must alter its physical properties (shape, size, stiffness) to allow the lymphocytes to squeeze through narrow spaces in tissues. The processes that allow this to happen are currently unknown.
Dr Muñoz and his team have obtained evidence that signals coming from a protein receptor (integrin) on the surface of leukaemic cells alter the DNA structure. However, how this leads to changes in the physical properties of the nucleus and affects the ability of cells to move, needs to be explored.
This project will define how these protein receptors send signals into the nucleus and how this affects DNA structure to cause the cancer to spread.
The findings from Dr Muñoz’s research will help the team understand how cancer cells move through the body and will enable the design of new personalized treatments for blood cancers.
My research is into the nucleus of leukaemia cells – where the DNA and genetic material is stored – and how it might affect how the disease spreads. This is a highly novel area of research.Dr Javier Muñoz