Home Science & Technology Self-assembling molecules may help treat cancer

Self-assembling molecules may help treat cancer


Artist’s illustration of a new cancer treatment: Because of the conditions inside a cancer cell, the molecules shown here in light green can join together to form long hairs. They then stop converting oxygen into the energy the cell needs to grow. The result: the cancer cell dies. Author: Max Planck Institute for Polymer Research

Cancer treatment is a long process, because the remnants of living cancer cells often turn into aggressive forms and become incurable. Therefore, treatment plans often include multiple drug combinations and/or radiation therapy to prevent the cancer from coming back. To combat different types of cancer cells, modern drugs have been developed that target specific biochemical processes unique to each cell type.

however, cancer cells highly adaptive and able to develop mechanisms to avoid the effects of treatment. “We want to prevent this adaptation by breaking into the basic pillar of cellular life—how cells breathe, which means taking in oxygen—and thus produce chemical energy for growth,” says David Ng, group leader at MPI-P.

The research team produced a synthetic drug that enters cells, where it reacts to the conditions inside and triggers a chemical process. This allows the drug molecules to bind together and form tiny hairs that are a thousand times thinner than human hair. “These hairs are fluorescent, so you can look at them directly with a microscope as they form,” says Zhixuan Zhou, an Alexander von Humboldt Fellow and first author of the paper.

The scientists tracked the oxygen consumption of different types of cells and found that the hairs prevented all of them from converting oxygen into ATP, the molecule responsible for delivering energy to the cells. The process even worked for cells derived from untreatable metastatic cancer. As a result, the cells die quickly within four hours. After several years of research, scientists hope that they will be able to develop a new method of treating cancer, which is still incurable.

Weil, Ng, and their colleagues showed an exciting result in a controlled laboratory culture, and will continue to unravel deeper insights based on how these tiny hairs prevent the conversion of oxygen into chemical energy. With further development, these objects may also be able to be manipulated in the future to control other cellular processes for the treatment of other important diseases.

They published their results in Journal of the American Chemical Society.

Research shows why many cancer cells must import fat

Additional information:
Zhixuan Zhou et al. In situ assembly of platinum(II)-metallopeptide nanostructures disrupts energy homeostasis and cellular metabolism, Journal of the American Chemical Society (2022). DOI: 10.1021/jacs.2c03215

Courtesy of the Max Planck Institute for Polymer Research

Citation: Self-assembling molecules may help cancer therapy (2022, September 8) Retrieved September 8, 2022, from https://phys.org/news/2022-09-self-assembling-molecules-cancer-therapy .html

This document is subject to copyright. Except in good faith for the purpose of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without written permission. The content is provided for informational purposes only.

Previous articleBest rooftop tents of 2022
Next articleGreen Chemistry and the School Science Lab – Safer Chemistry for Today and Tomorrow