Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Small molecule receptor detects lipid's telltale sign of cell death

Efficient, economical molecule could speed evaluation of some anti-cancer treatments

Researchers from Boston College have developed a new class of small molecule receptors capable of detecting a lipid molecule that reveals the telltale signs of cellular death, particularly cancer cells targeted by anti-cancer drugs, the team reports in the current electronic edition of the Journal of the American Chemical Society.

Researchers led by Assistant Professor of Chemistry Jianmin Gao successfully grafted the key residues of the milk protein lactadherin onto the molecular scaffolding of a short but sturdy circular chain of amino acids to create cyclic lactadherin (cLac) mimics capable of binding to apoptotic, or dying, cells.

Gao said his team spent a year and a half focused on a finding a new method of measuring cell death. The team wanted to create an alternative to traditional tests that measure whether or not a tumor has shrunk in size after several weeks of treatment. The team's focus was on finding a way to measure the presence of dead cells, not the absence of tumor cells.

"We started by looking for a method to detect dying cells," said Gao. "The sensitivity of scientific and medical imaging is better if you look for the appearance of something, rather than the disappearance. What we wanted to look for is that in the initial stages of treatment the therapy's molecules are beginning to trigger the death of cancer cells. That can give you an idea a drug is working much sooner than the current methods of evaluation."

The newly engineered cLac molecules could prove useful as a prognostic tool which could enable oncologists to determine the effectiveness of anti-cancer drugs in a matter of days rather than several weeks, said Gao, who added that further research and testing will need to be conducted.

"Given the small size and ease of synthesis and labeling, cLacs hold great promise for noninvasive imaging of cell death in living animals and, ultimately, in human patients," Gao said.

The cLac molecule is relatively small, built upon on a cyclic peptide scaffold of approximately a dozen amino acids, yet Gao's laboratory tests show it is capable of capturing the lipid molecule phosphatidylserine (PS) – a function nature accomplishes by using proteins of several hundred amino acids, Gao said. In apoptotic cells PS flows to the surface where cLac is able to latch onto the dying cells while bypassing living cells. In the current report, researchers colored cLac with a fluorescent dye in order to highlight apoptotic cells for fluorescence microscopy. By using appropriate tracing agents, cLac should be detectable through commonly used imaging technology, including MRI and PET.

The cLac molecule could offer a cost-effective, more stable and cleaner alternative to natural PS-binding proteins used for similar purposes, Gao said. Those proteins are bulky and relatively unstable, contain metal cofactors that make results difficult to interpret and show poor ability to penetrate tissue because of their size.

Gao said cLac could also serve as a useful tool for researchers who use protein as a cell death indicator to screen for millions of compounds. The use of the small, peptide-binding molecule could substantially reduce costs for researchers, Gao said.

Ed Hayward | EurekAlert!
Further information:

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Novel mechanisms of action discovered for the skin cancer medication Imiquimod
21.10.2016 | Technische Universität München

nachricht Second research flight into zero gravity
21.10.2016 | Universität Zürich

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

Im Focus: New Products - Highlights of COMPAMED 2016

COMPAMED has become the leading international marketplace for suppliers of medical manufacturing. The trade fair, which takes place every November and is co-located to MEDICA in Dusseldorf, has been steadily growing over the past years and shows that medical technology remains a rapidly growing market.

In 2016, the joint pavilion by the IVAM Microtechnology Network, the Product Market “High-tech for Medical Devices”, will be located in Hall 8a again and will...

Im Focus: Ultra-thin ferroelectric material for next-generation electronics

'Ferroelectric' materials can switch between different states of electrical polarization in response to an external electric field. This flexibility means they show promise for many applications, for example in electronic devices and computer memory. Current ferroelectric materials are highly valued for their thermal and chemical stability and rapid electro-mechanical responses, but creating a material that is scalable down to the tiny sizes needed for technologies like silicon-based semiconductors (Si-based CMOS) has proven challenging.

Now, Hiroshi Funakubo and co-workers at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, in collaboration with researchers across Japan, have conducted experiments to...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

Resolving the mystery of preeclampsia

21.10.2016 | Health and Medicine

Stanford researchers create new special-purpose computer that may someday save us billions

21.10.2016 | Information Technology

From ancient fossils to future cars

21.10.2016 | Materials Sciences

More VideoLinks >>>