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Volume 578 Issue 7795, 20 February 2020

Twisted nerves

The cover image shows an artist’s impression of solid tumours clustering near neurons. In this week’s issue, Moran Amit and his colleagues show that head and neck cancer cells can manipulate nearby nerve cells into promoting tumour growth. The researchers find that the cancer cells secrete vesicles containing small RNA molecules (microRNAs) that are taken up by nearby sensory nerve cells. If the cancer cells have a mutant form of the p53 protein, then the vesicles secreted do not feature a microRNA that blocks neuronal growth. As a result, the vesicles promote the proliferation of nerve cells and reprogram them to be adrenergic neurons, which aids tumour growth.

Cover image: David M. Aten

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