England (Commonwealth Union) – The identification of the unique properties from how cancer cells differ from healthy cells is crucial for the development of new treatment in medical biotechnology. The unique behavior, chemicals and proteins of cancer cells have been explored in personalized medicine. Bioelectric features have recently become a key area of focus for researchers in the recent past.
A new study has discovered variable voltages in the membranes of breast cancer cells, shedding light on how they grow and spread. The research, led by Imperial College London and The Institute of Cancer Research, London, may give better knowledge on ways cancer cells ‘decide’ when to multiply and locations in the body they spread.
Cancerous cells undergo a series of bioelectric alterations, such as their cell membrane, increasing positive charge compared to healthy cell membranes.
The research published in Communications Biology, saw that as well as the membrane voltage being greater than in healthy cells, it also changes over time, with breast cancer cells acting like neurons. Researchers demonstrated an electrical communications network between cancer cells that may in future, be an area of interest for disruption, in forming potential new treatments.
“When healthy cells become cancerous, the changes they undergo can help them to grow and spread. We know, for example, that certain genes that control cell multiplication can switch off, causing uncontrolled cell growth,” said Co-lead author Dr Amanda Foust, from Imperial’s Department of Bioengineering, further saying that they do not know the reason voltage of membranes fluctuates in cancer cells but the finding and technology of the partnership between engineers and biologists paves the way for further studies to learn cancer signaling networks and growth.
Researchers are currently attempting to identify and unpick the potential associations between cell membrane voltage and the behavior of cancer cells, exploring if it’s possible to cut them.