In eukaryotic organisms, the size of tissues and organs depends on a balance between cell proliferation, cell differentiation, and cell death. These three processes play an active role throughout the life of an individual. They are necessary for embryogenesis as well as for the functional integrity of the adult organism. All three processes are strictly regulated and highly dependent on a multitude of intracellular and extracellular factors to progress normally.
The fact that cell proliferation is a complex, genetically regulated process has been acknowledged for quite some time. Oncogenes, tumor suppressor genes, and cyclins with their associated kinases are all involved in cell proliferation. Cell differentiation is also a very complex process in which the expression of cell specific genes is induced. The fact that even cell death can be genetically regulated is a later discovery. Many genes involved in the control of cell proliferation and cell differentiation also seem to play a role in the regulation of cell death. Genetically regulated cell death is called programmed cell death or apoptosis. An increased understanding of the molecular mechanisms controlling cell proliferation, cell differentiation, and apoptosis is vitally important and will help us to elucidate of the mechanisms of normal development as well as the etiology of several diseases.
Our research is concentrated on research areas related to the control of cell proliferation and cell death. In one research area, we are studying the role of the polyamines in cell cycle control and apoptosis. In another research area we are using this information to investigate how cancer cells are affected by polyamine depletion with the aim of supporting the use of compounds that deplete the polyamine pools in cancer treatment. We are mainly concentrating on breast cancer and neuroblastoma and search for molecular markers for sensitivity. An important aspect of this research is to investigate the effect of polyamine depletion on cancer initiating cells or cancer stem cells. This project is conducted mainly at the Department of Biology and we are cooperating with researchers at the Jubileum Institute, Department of Oncology, Lund University Hospital.
Another part of our research is aimed at understanding how food components can contribute to the prevention of cancer by affecting cell proliferation and cell death. A publication from the World Cancer Research Fund International (Food, Nutrition, Physical Activity and the Prevention of Cancer: a Global Perspective, 2007, retrieved 25 August 2008) points to the importance of eating habits in cancer prevention. This research is performed in cooperation with Prof. Marie Paulsson (Department of Food Technology, Engineering and Nutrition, Lund University) and Dr. Helena Lindmark Månsson (Swedish Dairy Associaton).