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Researchers discover a new starting point for cancer therapy
Cancer cells are able to grow particularly quickly, which is due to "a very specific and strongly changed energy metabolism", scientists from the Medical University of Graz (MedUni Graz) report on their current study results. This change in energy metabolism could also lead to the so-called programmed cell death in cancer cells and thus open up new options in cancer therapy. The researchers published their results in the specialist journals "Nature Communications" and "Cellular Physiology and Biochemistry".
"Cancer cells are true masters of efficiency," said the MedUni Graz. The changed energy metabolism of the cells makes their uncontrolled growth possible in the first place. The research team at MedUni Graz has now been able to demonstrate in its current investigations "which changes in the calcium balance of the cellular power plants, the mitochondria, the cancer cells help your efficiency." The results also show "how by manipulating the cellular processes that mitochondrial Regulate calcium that can trigger the controlled cell death of tumor cells, ”reports the MedUni Vienna.
Researched the energy metabolism of cancer cells
In the case of tumor diseases, the dreaded cancer cells develop from originally healthy cells, which are characterized by cell growth regardless of the surrounding tissue, the scientists explain. The spread of the cancer cells would eventually destroy the integrity of the surrounding tissue. The team around Professor Dr. Wolfgang Graier from the Institute of Molecular Biology and Biochemistry at the Medical University of Graz has for some time been researching the differences in the energy metabolism of cancer cells and healthy body cells, which form the basis for the rapid growth of tumors.
Altered mitochondrial activity of the tumor cells
In the current study, the researchers took a closer look at the differences between tumor cells and healthy cells in terms of mitochondrial activity. In particular, the focus was on the absorption of calcium in the mitochondrion. The mitochondria are found in almost all body cells and as the power plants of the cell they produce the energy molecule adenosine triphosphate (ATP), which is the most important "fuel" for human life, according to Professor Graier. In addition, the very dynamic organelles are in intensive interaction with the largest intracellular Ca2 + storage, the endoplasmic reticulum, the expert explains further.
Absorption of calcium in the mitochondria
The absorption of calcium in the mitochondria forms a crucial process for the activation of mitochondrial respiration, which is the basis for the generation of ATP in these organelles, reports the MedUni Graz. Here, the researchers succeeded in proving on the cancer cells examined that “calcium uptake in the mitochondria is severely impaired by the methylation of the regulatory protein MICU1 and only through the interaction of the MICU1 with the uncoupling protein 2 (UCP2) that calcium uptake and activation of the Mitochondria can come. ”Professor Graier explains that unlike healthy cells, cancer cells seem to have the ability to regulate mitochondrial activity by expressing UCP2.
Cancer cells vulnerable to regulation of calcium intake
"The importance of this regulation, which is specific for cancer cells, is made clear by another publication by the Graz research group," reports the MedUni Graz. In additional studies, the researchers discovered that the calcium flow in the cancer cells from the endoplasmic reticulum to the mitochondria is greatly increased. "This increased calcium intake leads to an increased production of ATP, with which the cancer cells can generate energy for their enormous growth", said the MedUni Graz. Co-author Corina Madreiter-Sokolowski emphasizes that "this trick can also have a negative effect on cancer cells".
New options for cancer therapy
The steady increase in mitochondrial calcium intake ultimately leads to the triggering of mechanisms that can lead to the death of the cancer cell. The cells apparently prevent this on the one hand via the physical proximity between the endoplasmic reticulum and the mitochondria, and on the other hand by regulating the expression of the UCP2. If this balancing act is disturbed, for example by the grape ingredient "Resveratrol", this results in a selective death of cancer cells, according to the researchers. "These research results are promising research approaches for possible new options in cancer therapy and are currently the subject of intensive further research work at the Med Uni Graz," emphasizes Professor Graier. (fp)