Do you know what a cowlick is? A cowlick is a section of hair that stands up straight or lies at an angle that differs from your hairstyle. These strands appear when a part of your hair grows in a spinal pattern, with the help of so-called “polarity genes”. These genes help direct nutrient flow across cells, which form groups to help each other. They also help biological structures to form “polarized” patterns in the human hair, causing cowlick strands.
According to medical experts, polarity genes specify where the front and rear ends of cells are to help them migrate from one spot to another. The polarity is abandoned when cancer cells move around in your body and metastasize, at which point the disease gets hard to treat. A team of scientists from the Michigan State University examined this problem and they discovered what causes and governs these polarity genes – a protein that suppresses retinoblastomas, a type of cancer that affects children’s eyes.
The protein is a part of a larger family of cellular guardians which control cell reproduction, DNA repair as well as cellular self-destruction, all very important anti-cancer tools. When the scientists removed the protein from fruit flies, they noticed that they developed poorly-oriented wing hairs, meaning that it is also responsible for the expression of polarity genes and has powerful anti-cancer properties. The similarity between fruit flies and humans means that the protein probably has the same role in humans – if this gets confirmed, it could result in new chemo treatments which could restore the protein’s anti-cancer role.