The cancer cell membrane is the focus of current study, which reveals a brand-new mechanism for cancer cells to heal damage that would normally kill them.
The cell membrane serves as the cell’s skin in both normal and malignant cells. Damage to the membrane, on the other hand, might be fatal. Cells have a fluid inside, and if a hole in the membrane is created, the cell simply floats out and dies, similar to a hole in a water balloon.
As a result, damage to the cell membrane must be healed fast, and a new study by a group of Danish researchers has shown that cancer cells employ a mechanism called macropinocytosis to do it. The approach involves cancer cells dragging the intact cell membrane in over the injured area and closing the hole in a couple of minutes, which is already a recognized tool for cells in other settings.
The injured cell membrane is then split into tiny spheres and transferred to the cell’s “stomach,” or lysosomes, where it is destroyed down.
The researchers used a laser to disrupt the cancer cells’ membranes in the lab, causing macropinocytosis. They can observe that if the process is stopped by chemicals that prevent the tiny membrane spheres from forming, the cancer cell can no longer repair the damage and dies.
“Our findings give a foundational understanding of how cancer cells survive. In our tests, we also discovered that inhibiting the process causes cancer cells to die, indicating that macropinocytosis might be a potential therapeutic target. It’s a long-term view, but it’s intriguing,” says the author.
Possibility of recycling
When cancer spreads throughout the body, it is one of the most deadly aspects of the disease. When tumors appear in new places of the body, the disease becomes more difficult to treat and usually necessitates more aggressive therapy. Cancer cells are also more vulnerable to damage to their membrane when they spread through the body’s tissues.
Cancer cells can also mend the membrane by tying off the injured portion, much to how a lizard throws its tail.
However, laboratory tests suggest that macropinocytosis is used by aggressive cancer cells in particular. This might be because when the damaged membrane is destroyed in the lysosomes, the cancer cell has the option to reuse it.
Cancer cells will benefit from this sort of recycling since they divide often and require a lot of energy and material to produce new cells.
Even though the new findings have been published, the researchers’ job is far from done. Another member of the study team, postdoc Stine Lauritzen Snder, explains:
“We’re still working on figuring out how cancer cells preserve their membranes. What occurs once the membrane is closed is equally fascinating. We feel that the initial patching is a little sloppy, and that a more comprehensive membrane repair is required after that. It might be another weak spot in cancer cells, and it’s something she’d want to look into further,” she adds.