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Active Mechanisms of Cell Selection: From Cell Competition to Cell Fitness.

Final Report Summary - CELLFITNESS (Active Mechanisms of Cell Selection: From Cell Competition to Cell Fitness.)

Our bodies are composed by trillions of cells that are constantly interacting and exchanging information. Normally those cells need to cooperate in order to create cellular society that functions properly. In order to understand the social rules of cells of animal bodies, we decided to focus on what happens when things go wrong and cells start to compete rather than cooperate.
In particular we have studied how cells compete with each other in the fruit fly Drosophila and in humans.
In Drosophila we could show how cell competition is important for the elimination of unfit cells and how this process maintains tissue health, prevents developmental malformations, prolongs lifespan, prevents brain ageing and promotes regeneration (Merino et al., Cell 2015). However, in Drosophila this mechanism is hijacked by premalignant cells to gain a competitive growth advantage. For example, we could also observe that pretumoral cells can hijack cell competition to gain a competitive advantage invading and destroying normal tissues (Levayer et al., Nature 2015).
Finally, we discovered that the same ancient mechanisms of cell selection found in flies are conserved in humans, during evolution, and can provide human tumors a competitive advantage to make them more aggressive (Madan et al., Nature 2019).