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Bio-electric signals can nip cancer in the bud

Source : IANS
Last Updated: Sun, Feb 03, 2013 09:40 hrs

Washington, Feb 3 (IANS) A bio-electric signal can identify cancer prone cells and potentially suppress their growth by the manipulation of the electrical charge across their membranes, says a study.

"The discovery helps establish "a bio-electric basis for the early detection of cancer," said Brook Chernet, doctoral student who co-authored the study with Michael Levin, professor of biology and director of the Centre for Regenerative and Developmental Biology at the Tufts University.

"We've shown that electric events tell the cells what to do. The voltage changes are not merely a sign of cancer. They control and direct whether the cancer occurs or not," Levin noted, the journal Disease Models and Mechanisms reports.

Bio-electric signals underlie an important set of control mechanisms that regulate how cells grow and multiply.

Chernet and Levin investigated the bioelectric properties of cells that develop into tumours in Xenopus laevis frog embryos, according to a Tufts statement.

The researchers hypothesized that cancer can occur when bioelectric signalling networks are perturbed and cells stop attending to the patterning cues that orchestrate their normal development.

They induced tumour growth in the frog embryos by injecting the samples with mRNAs (messenger RNA).

The embryos developed tumour-like growths that are linked with human cancers such as melanoma, leukemia, lung cancer, and rhabdomyosarcoma (a soft tissue cancer that most often affects children).

Tufts biologists were also able to show that changing the bioelectric code helped suppressed abnormal cell growth.

"We hypothesized that the appearance of oncogene-induced tumours can be inhibited by alteration of membrane voltage, and we were right," said Levin.



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