Cancer cells eat themselves to survive
To survive life threatening injuries, cancer cells use a technique in which they eat parts of the membrane surrounding them. This is shown for the first time in research from a team of Danish researchers.
It is the membrane of cancer cells that is at the focus of the new research now showing a completely new way in which cancer cells can repair the damage that can otherwise kill them.
In both normal cells and cancer cells, the cell membrane acts as the skin of the cells. And damage to the membrane can be life threatening. The interior of cells is fluid, and if a hole is made in the membrane, the cell simply floats out and dies – a bit like a hole in a water balloon.
Therefore, damage to the cell membrane must be repaired quickly, and now research from a team of Danish researchers shows that cancer cells use a technique called macropinocytosis. The technique, which is already a known tool for cells in other contexts, consists in the cancer cells pulling the intact cell membrane in over the damaged area and sealing the hole in a matter of minutes. Next, the damaged part of the cell membrane is separated into small spheres and transported to the cells’ ‘stomach’ – the so-called lysosomes, where they are broken down.
Release date: 02 July 2021
Source: University of Copenhagen – The Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences