Probable Cell of Origin Identified for Chordoma
For over 100 years it has been assumed that chordomas arise from remnants of an embryonic cartilage-like tissue called notochord, yet how and why notochord cells end up lodged in the skull and spine has remained a mystery. By genetically tagging developing notochordal cells in mice, Dr. Brian Harfe, assistant professor at the University of Florida, has identified a population of notochordal cells that persist in the spine well into adulthood. These cells presumably represent the origin of the elusive notochordal remnants that give rise to chordoma.
This finding has major implications for the entire field of chordoma research, as scientists can now directly manipulate these notochordal cells in order to see what alterations will cause chordoma. This opens the door to creating new genetically-induced mouse models of chordoma, which are needed to screen new drugs for effectiveness against chordoma.
Preliminary data from Dr. Harfe’s project was presented at the Second International Chordoma Research Workshop.
Now Dr. Harfe’s group has published these exciting findings in the December issue of Developmental Dynamics, a major journal in the developmental biology field. Click here to Read Article.
In August the Chordoma Foundation cofounded a project in Dr. Harfe’s lab with the Liddy Shriver Sarcoma Initiative to lay the foundation for developing a new mouse model of chordoma. And just this month the Chordoma Foundation has funded a collaborative project with Dr. Harfe and Dr. Vijaya Ramesh from Harvard University to test whether altering two different chordoma-associated genes in the mouse notochord will give rise to chordomas in these mice.
Results from these exciting projects will begin to emerge within the next year.