Every cancer cell was dead. Examining the tissue culture dish in his Penn State lab in 2008, BYU alumnus Craig M. Meyers (BS ’82, MS ’84) wasn’t sure what had happened. Seven days earlier those same cells had been alive and well. Meyers had directed an assistant to introduce a special virus (called adeno-associated virus type 2 [AAV2]) into the cell lines of cancerous human papillomavirus (HPV) cells and leave it all in an incubator. Now to see them all dead, he suspected they’d made a mistake.
“Our first thought was . . . that there was something wrong with the incubator,” says Meyers, a Distinguished Professor of Microbiology and Immunology at the Penn State College of Medicine. “So we repeated [the test] multiple times, and it happened every time with multiple incubators.”
Since working on a microbiology PhD at UCLA nearly 30 years ago, Meyers has been on the front lines in the ongoing battle against HPV. This sexually transmitted virus leads to the growth of warts on various parts of the body and can result in several cancers, including cervical cancer.
Finding a virus that killed cancerous HPV cells was remarkable because, unlike HPV, there is little known about the AAV2 virus. There had been no crucial need for AAV2 research because, while the virus does infect humans, it has no known negative effect on the human body. However, in that tissue culture dish in 2008, Meyers discovered that AAV2 was somehow causing the HPV cancer cells to kill themselves.
Read the full story at BYU Magazine.