Possible 'electrical language' of breast cancer cells discovered

This new study, which was just published in Communications Biology, discovered that breast cancer cells behave a lot like neurons and had greater membrane voltages than healthy cells do.
Representative image
Representative image

LONDON: The membranes of breast cancer cells have been found to contain variable voltages, providing insight into how the cells proliferate and spread. Our understanding of how cancer cells "decide" when to proliferate and where to disseminate may improve as a result of the research, which is being jointly conducted by Imperial College London and The Institute of Cancer Research, London.

A number of bioelectric changes occur in cells as they develop cancer. For instance, the cell membrane, which surrounds cells, becomes more positively charged than healthy cell membranes. This new study, which was just published in Communications Biology, discovered that breast cancer cells behave a lot like neurons and had greater membrane voltages than healthy cells do. The scientists hypothesise that this might point to an electrical communication network between cancer cells that might one day be a target for disruption, leading to the development of potential new treatments.

Dr Amanda Foust, a co-lead author from Imperial's Department of Bioengineering, said: "When healthy cells develop into cancerous cells, the changes they go through can aid in their growth and dissemination. For instance, we are aware that certain genes that regulate cell multiplication can become inactive, leading to unchecked cell growth." "We don't yet know why the voltage of membranes fluctuates in cancer cells - but our discovery and technology, enabled by the exciting collaboration of engineers and biologists, opens doors to further work that could help us better understand cancer signalling networks and growth."

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