Hunting a Killer

Cell Biologist Yuri Lazebnik: Pursuing the Roots of Cancer

Yuri Lazebnik Fuses Cells

Cell biologist Lazebnik explores links between cell fusion and cancer.

Cell Fusion


What is another name for cell suicide?

Answer: Apoptosis

Apoptosis under normal conditions

During development

Throughout lifetime

Hunting Down a Serial Killer

Cancer cells

What makes cancer cells act like they do?

Investigation Guided by Surprise

David Rubenstein, a high school student working in Lazebnik's lab as part of Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory's Partner's for the Future program, sets up an experiment with a normal cell and a cancer-prone cell.

The experiment yielded a surprise finding: new cells that appeared to be fused together.

Rubenstein repeats the experiment and gets the same results.

Lazebnik starts investigating cell fusion

Cell Fusion

Name the five known examples of healthy cell fusion.

What would happen if other healthy fused cells continued to divide?

Do accidentally fused cells continue to divide?

Spontaneous Cell Fusion

Some cancerous and cancer-prone cells

What Makes Cells Fuse?

Fluorescent microscope

Lazebnik and Duelli investigate genes and molecules in fused cells

Hypothesis: The virus might trigger cell fusion.

Hypothesis: Some of the mutations can chart a course toward cancer.

Observation #2: Fused cells develop genetic changes, or mutations.

Observation #1: Cancer-prone cells squirt out a virus that causes an AIDS-like disease in monkeys.

Viruses Can Make Cells Fuse

What are syncytia?

Is there a link between viruses and cancer?

Questions About Viruses

What We Know

What We Don't Know

Research Applications

What are the implications of using viruses as vehicles to deliver genes or medications to specific tissues if such a strategy relies on cell fusion?