Sydney researchers have been astonished as they have watched the face develop on a laboratory-produced cancer protein which develops into tumours.
The scientists at the Westmead Millennium Institute for Medical Research created the cancer protein 12 years ago to learn how it would develop into a tumour in the human body.
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But the experiment produced more than they had bargained for when the smiley face began to develop over the years.
'We have never seen any like this before,' said Associate Professor Beric Henderson, leading the research.
'People here in the laboratory have been getting very excited by the image.'
Leading the research: Associate Professor Beric Henderson says the face has been fascinating scientists
Professor Henderson and his team have been given the task of trying to unlock the behaviour of what is known as the beta-catenin protein, which causes cancer by moving into the cell nucleus and activating genes.
The chain reaction transforms normal cells into tumour cells.
He said: 'That's really the place where the cancer protein does its things. If it doesn't go into the nucleus it doesn't cause cancer. So we're studying how it gets in there to hopefully work out how to stop it doing so.'
However, he admitted that peering down a microscope and watching the cancer protein develop can be a tedious process.
He said: 'It can get very dull and boring - causing eye strain and some might say some mental health problems as well.'
But, he agreed it could also be fun - such as that moment when senior scientist Dr Manisha Sharma discovered the smiley face in its early development.
Professor Henderson said: 'It's had all of us wondering what the underlying message is. There are different ways of looking at it.
'You could think it's laughing at us, but I like to think it's challenging us
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