University of Minnesota Cancer Center researchers have found that morphine, which is routinely given to cancer patients to manage severe pain, actually stimulates signals in endothelial cells that in turn prompt tumors to grow in mice. The study will be published in the Aug. 1 issue of Cancer Research. Kalpna Gupta, Ph.D., assistant professor in the hematology, oncology and transplantation division of the universitys department of medicine and lead author of the study, found that doses of morphine similar to doses given to cancer patients activate the mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) signaling pathway in human endothelial cells (cells that form blood vessels). MAPK plays a key role in promoting endothelial cell multiplication and angiogenesis (formation of new blood vessels). Angiogenesis can cause tumor growth by providing nutrients to growing tumors and by transporting cancer cells from a tumor to other parts of the body. Gupta notes that morphine did not promote initial or early growth of tumors in this study.
The researchers also found that morphine promotes endothelial cell survival by activating Akt, the key survival-signaling pathway inside these cells. Endothelial cell survival is crucial to the process of angiogenesis. This study demonstrates for the first time that morphine-induced effects on blood vessel cells can lead to angiogenesis-dependent tumor growth in mice.
"Despite the widespread use of morphine to treat pain in many medical conditions like cancer, little was known about how this drug affects blood vessels or cancer," says Gupta. "Our study shows that morphine stimulates the formation of new blood vessels inside the tumor, which in turn allows increased growth of tumors in mice." Gupta cautions that there is currently no scientific data that indicates morphine or similar pain medications will lead to increased growth of cancers in humans.
According to Gupta, these findings could lead to the development of new treatments to manage cancer pain. For example, understanding the activity of opioids like morphine in angiogenesis may lead to new drugs that selectively relieve pain without stimulating angiogenesis. The researchers said that their findings call for further investigation of the role of morphine and similar opioid drugs in tumor growth in patients.
Deane Morrison | EurekAlert
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Controlling electronic current is essential to modern electronics, as data and signals are transferred by streams of electrons which are controlled at high speed. Demands on transmission speeds are also increasing as technology develops. Scientists from the Chair of Laser Physics and the Chair of Applied Physics at Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg (FAU) have succeeded in switching on a current with a desired direction in graphene using a single laser pulse within a femtosecond ¬¬ – a femtosecond corresponds to the millionth part of a billionth of a second. This is more than a thousand times faster compared to the most efficient transistors today.
Graphene is up to the job
At the productronica trade fair in Munich this November, the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT will be presenting Laser-Based Tape-Automated Bonding, LaserTAB for short. The experts from Aachen will be demonstrating how new battery cells and power electronics can be micro-welded more efficiently and precisely than ever before thanks to new optics and robot support.
Fraunhofer ILT from Aachen relies on a clever combination of robotics and a laser scanner with new optics as well as process monitoring, which it has developed...
Plants and algae use the enzyme Rubisco to fix carbon dioxide, removing it from the atmosphere and converting it into biomass. Algae have figured out a way to increase the efficiency of carbon fixation. They gather most of their Rubisco into a ball-shaped microcompartment called the pyrenoid, which they flood with a high local concentration of carbon dioxide. A team of scientists at Princeton University, the Carnegie Institution for Science, Stanford University and the Max Plank Institute of Biochemistry have unravelled the mysteries of how the pyrenoid is assembled. These insights can help to engineer crops that remove more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere while producing more food.
A warming planet
Our brains house extremely complex neuronal circuits, whose detailed structures are still largely unknown. This is especially true for the so-called cerebral cortex of mammals, where among other things vision, thoughts or spatial orientation are being computed. Here the rules by which nerve cells are connected to each other are only partly understood. A team of scientists around Moritz Helmstaedter at the Frankfiurt Max Planck Institute for Brain Research and Helene Schmidt (Humboldt University in Berlin) have now discovered a surprisingly precise nerve cell connectivity pattern in the part of the cerebral cortex that is responsible for orienting the individual animal or human in space.
The researchers report online in Nature (Schmidt et al., 2017. Axonal synapse sorting in medial entorhinal cortex, DOI: 10.1038/nature24005) that synapses in...
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