Solved: Mystery of how the body balances cell production

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When it comes to survival on the cellular level, mysteries have abounded for decades. In a paper published in the October issue of Nature Cell Biology, Cheryl Walker, Ph.D., and her team at the Texas A&M Health Science Center (TAMHSC) Institute of Biosciences and Technology (IBT) reveal the answers behind one such mystery—the tuberous sclerosis complex, or TSC2, and its newly discovered role as monitor of peroxisomes that break down fat in human cells.

The peroxisome, a tiny intracellular organelle, was discovered in the mid-1960s, and for nearly 50 years scientists were unsure of how it and TSC2 worked. Now Walker and her team know that TSC2 keeps peroxisomes at the right levels to maintain healthy cells.

“Without TSC2 to balance peroxisomes, healthy cells could proliferate in an uncontrolled way—just like cancer,” said Walker, who serves as director of the Texas A&M IBT and whose lab is part of the Center for Translational Cancer Research in Houston. “Knowing how TSC2 behaves to keep cells balanced could help us learn how to balance or counteract diseases like cancer and heart disease, as well as inflammation and maladies associated with aging. In short, it is a concept that could lead to cures.”

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