Medical researchers use knockout cells to study how genes function and how genes can be used for medical treatments. For example, a knockout cell line for liver cancer might turn off a gene linked with tumor growth.

Cancer isn’t directly passed down from parents to children the way some traits and health conditions are, but it is considered a genetic condition. That’s because cancer develops from changes in your genes that affect the way your cells grow and reproduce.

Cancer-related changes to your genes, also called mutations or variants, can:

  • be inherited from a parent
  • be caused by exposure to carcinogens, such as chemicals in tobacco smoke or ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun
  • occur randomly in your DNA as cells multiply

Although medical researchers know this is the case, they don’t always know why it happens. In recent years, there’s been a lot of focus on the genetics of cancer and whether the future of cancer treatments might be found there.

Knockout cell lines are an area with real promise. Researchers can remove or inactivate specific genes to achieve a specific effect, such as stopping cancer cells from reproducing.

More research still needs to be done, and most uses of knockout cell lines are still in clinical trials. But studies have already shown that liver cancer cells, and other cancer cells, might respond to these types of treatments.

A knockout cell is a cell created by scientists to test what happens when one or more genes in an organism are removed or inactivated.

Researchers use knockout cells to learn how genes function and to figure out how they might harness genes for medical purposes. For instance, researchers can create gene mutations to learn how gene mutations naturally happen.

A knockout cell line is a specific gene pathway that’s been found to work in relation to a condition. Knockout cell lines are targeted knockouts known to have a specific effect when the genes are deactivated.

A knockout cell line can work like a code, turning off specific genes and changing how a body part functions or a tumor grows.

There are multiple uses for knockout cell lines. As the technology continues to evolve, even more uses might be discovered.

Currently, knockout cell lines are used for advancements such as:

  • Learning how diseases develop: Many health conditions begin because something stops functioning correctly. Using knockout cell lines, scientists can find the exact genes that shut off, how those genes typically operate, and why the genes are sometimes inactive or change function. This can help them discover how conditions start and could lead to new treatments in the future.
  • Targeting medications: Knockout cell lines can give clinical researchers new data about conditions and their starting points. With this data, new medications that target specific genes and the processes that initially start conditions can be better developed. This could lead to precise and early treatment of conditions.
  • Using gene therapy to treat cancer: Clinical trials and medical centers worldwide use knockout cell lines to treat multiple forms of cancer. Knockout cell lines can modify cancer genes to stop or alter their growth, inactivate cancer genes, or replace cancer genes.
  • Verifying antibodies: Antibodies are immune proteins the body produces in response to infections. Testing for antibodies is used to prove immunity through vaccination or prior infection in many serious conditions. Standard testing isn’t always 100% consistent, but tests, currently in development, using knockout cell lines could be a lot more reliable.

What is a gene knock-in?

A gene knock-in is the direct opposite of a gene knockout.

Rather than removing or inactivating a specific gene, a gene knock-in tests what happens when a gene is purposefully activated or added in.

Just like a gene knockout, a gene knock-in can help researchers study how conditions form and develop, as well as how to best treat them.

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Several knockout cell lines have been used for liver cancer. The first cell line ever found for liver cancer is the Huh-7 line. This line was found in 1982 by researchers H. Nakabayshi and J. Sato.

Huh-7 cells are liver cells typically found between chromosomes 55 and 63. Typically, these cells are thin and similar in structure to skin cells.

The Huh-7 cells found in liver tumors are very different from healthy Huh-7 cells. These abnormal Huh-7 cells are a hallmark of liver cancer.

Additional liver cancer knockout cell lines include:

  • CirclPo11: Recent research has shown that circlPo11 causes the self-renewal of cancer stem cells in the liver and activates tumor growth pathways. Targeting circlPO11 and turning it off could be a powerful liver cancer treatment.
  • PTPMT1: PTPMT1 is an enzyme cancer cells use to make energy and survive a lack of oxygen. Research has demonstrated that when PTMPT1 is inhibited and liver cancer cells are deprived of oxygen, those cancer cells struggle to survive. This could be a potential liver cancer treatment in the future.
  • Gm19705: This knockout line, also called PHAROH, has been shown to reduce the growth of liver cancer cells and stop them from spreading.

A knockout cell line for liver cancer is an off-switch for a specific gene that has been linked with liver cancer development and growth.

These genes have been tested and proven to be linked to specific points and places in liver cancer development.

A knockout cell line targets these places and deactivates a specific place in development. Most knockout cell lines and the targeted treatments that can come from studying them are still being examined in clinical trials.

If successful, these trials could lead to new treatments for liver cancer and a wide range of other conditions in the future.