In the mystical world of fortune-telling, alectryomancy is the belief that watching chickens can help you read the future. A similar idea -- but with a rather more scientific foundation --is driving the groundbreaking work of one City of Hope researcher.
|Dr. Marcia Miller is leading important research on the role of genetics in beating cancer.|
Marcia Miller, Ph.D., professor in City of Hope's division of molecular biology, studies the genetic makeup of chickens. Her special focus is major histocompatibility complex, or MHC, genes. Present in humans as well, these genes affect whether a patient's body will accept or reject donor tissue, and may also influence the growth of cancer.
"Chickens have been a very important experimental model for years," Miller explains. "We know about B- and T-cells because of studies on chickens." Today, a City of Hope team led by Michael Jensen, M.D., is developing ways to use genetically-engineered T-cells to destroy cancerous tumors.
Meanwhile, Dr. Miller's research has identified MHC genes that may protect birds from developing a fatal type of cancer spread by virus. Although this virus is highly contagious, some infected chickens never develop cancer. Dr. Miller believes the MHC genes could explain why.
Ultimately, Dr. Miller's research could reveal how the human immune system recognizes some cancer cells as foreign and then kills them. That would be a pretty dramatic achievement for the humble chicken.
(I want someone to know how hard I had to resist using a stupid "something to crow about" pun to end this article!)
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