The study, published today in Nature Communications, explains how this tiny 'railway' system is a key target for cancer drugs and, as such, how this new discovery reveals how better drugs might be made. The tracks of this so called 'railway' are tiny tubes, called microtubules, 1000 times thinner than a human hair.
Researchers at Warwick Medical School have found that the minuscule tracks of a cellular railway system have a line of weakness, which tends to crack and cause the tracks to dissolve. Cancer drugs already target these microscopic railway tracks, which are called microtubules and are a thousand times thinner than a human hair.
Credit: Prof. Robert Cross, Warwick Medical School
The research shows that a narrow seam that runs along the length of the microtubules is the weakest point. If the seam cracks and splits, the microtubule dissolves.
It has been known for some time that microtubules have a single seam that zips the structure together along its length, but the function of this seam has evaded scientists until now. By building microtubules with extra seams in the laboratory, and examining their stability using video microscopes, the researchers found that the more seams the microtubule has, the more unstable it becomes.
The new work dramatically alters thinking on how the microtubule system works and the search is now on for factors inside the cell that influence the stability of microtubule seams.
Microtubules are a validated target for cancer therapy drugs. For example Taxol™, used in breast cancer therapy, binds to microtubules and stops the microtubule from dissolving. This means the microtubule tracks cannot remodel themselves prior to cell division, which in turn stops the cells dividing, thus arresting the growth of cells including those forming cancerous tumours.
Professor Robert Cross, head of the research team at Warwick Medical School, explained, "It is clear that any new drugs aiming to stabilize or destabilize microtubules must target the microtubule seam. We expect this to lead us to a better understanding of the way microtubules are regulated in cells and why this sometimes goes wrong, such as in development of cancer."
"Our findings help us to understand how some existing cancer treatment drugs actually work and this in turn should lead to development of new generations of better and more effective anti-microtubule drugs."
The research was funded by the Association for International Cancer Research (AICR) and Marie Curie Cancer Care.
Luke Harrison | EurekAlert!
Zinc Deficiency Linked to Activation of Hedgehog Signaling Pathway
20.04.2015 | Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI)
UV light robot to clean hospital rooms could help stop spread of 'superbugs'
15.04.2015 | Texas A&M University
Max Planck researcher Buhalqem Mamtimin determines how much nitrogen oxide is released into the atmosphere from agriculturally used oases.
In order to make statements about current and future air pollution, scientists use models which simulate the Earth’s atmosphere. A lot of information such as...
Scientists at the Helmholtz-Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf (HZDR) and the University of Konstanz are working on storing and processing information on the level of single molecules to create the smallest possible components that will combine autonomously to form a circuit. As recently reported in the academic journal Advanced Science, the researchers can switch on the current flow through a single molecule for the first time with the help of light.
Dr. Artur Erbe, physicist at the HZDR, is convinced that in the future molecular electronics will open the door for novel and increasingly smaller – while also...
Cells of the vascular system of vertebrates can fuse with themselves. This process, which occurs when a blood vessel is no longer necessary and pruned, has now been described on the cellular level by Prof. Markus Affolter from the Biozentrum of the University of Basel. The findings of this study have been published in the journal “PLoS Biology”.
The vascular system is the supply network of the human organism and delivers oxygen and nutrients to the last corners of the body. So far, research on the...
Astronomers from Chalmers University of Technology have used the giant telescope Alma to reveal an extremely powerful magnetic field very close to a supermassive black hole in a distant galaxy
Astronomers from Chalmers University of Technology have used the giant telescope Alma to reveal an extremely powerful magnetic field very close to a...
A team of physicists from MPQ, Caltech, and ICFO proposes the combination of nano-photonics with ultracold atoms for simulating quantum many-body systems and creating new states of matter.
Ultracold atoms in the so-called optical lattices, that are generated by crosswise superposition of laser beams, have been proven to be one of the most...
13.04.2015 | Event News
25.03.2015 | Event News
19.03.2015 | Event News
21.04.2015 | Materials Sciences
21.04.2015 | Earth Sciences
21.04.2015 | Studies and Analyses