Researchers at Vanderbilt University Medical Center have discovered a nanoparticle released from cells, called a “supermere,” which contains enzymes, proteins and RNA associated with multiple cancers, cardiovascular disease, Alzheimer’s disease and even COVID-19.
The discovery, reported Dec. 9 in Nature Cell Biology, is a significant advance in understanding the role extracellular vesicles and nanoparticles play in shuttling important chemical “messages” between cells, both in health and disease.
For one thing, supermeres carry most of the extracellular RNA released by cells and which is found in the bloodstream. Among other functional properties, cancer-derived supermeres can “transfer” drug resistance to tumor cells, perhaps via the RNA cargo they deliver, the researchers reported.
Supermeres are important carriers of TGFBI, a protein that in established tumors promotes tumor progression. TGFBI thus may be a useful marker in liquid biopsies for patients with colorectal cancer, the researchers noted.
They also carry ACE2, a cell-surface receptor that plays a role in cardiovascular disease and is the target of the COVID-19 virus. This raises the possibility that ACE2 carried by supermeres could serve as a “decoy” to bind the virus and prevent infection.
Another potentially important cargo is APP, the amyloid-beta precursor protein implicated in the development of Alzheimer’s disease. Supermeres can cross the blood-brain barrier, suggesting that their analysis could improve early diagnosis or possibly even targeted treatment of the disease.
Release date: 10 December 2021
Source: Vanderbilt University Medical Center