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In a recent study, the ability of nanotechnology was harnessed by researchers from Brigham and Women's Hospital and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) to identify a novel way for cancer to deactivate its would-be cellular attackers. The attackers operate by spreading the microscopic tentacles which reach inside an immune cell and take out its power.
The recent findings of the research were reported in Nature Nanotechnology, which aims to build new options for developing cancer immunotherapy.
The cancer cell is powered up by draining out the immune cell's mitochondria, which in return depletes the immune cell. "Cancer kills when the immune system is suppressed and cancer cells are able to metastasize, and it appears that nanotubes can help them do both," citing Shiladitya Sengupta, co-author and co-director of the Brigham's Center for Engineered Therapeutics, ANI reported.
"This is a completely new mechanism by which cancer cells evade the immune system and it gives us a new target to go after," he further added.
Sengupta and associates established several tests wherein they co-cultured breast cancer cells and immune cells, like T cells, to explore the process of how cancer cells, as well as immune cells, engage at the nanoscale level. They have noticed some unique developments by using field-emission scanning electron microscopy. Researchers observed that cancer cells and immune cells seemed to be physically linked by little tendrils with diameters ranging from 100 to 1000 nanometers.
Further, the researchers witnessed that the nanotubes or nano tendrils joined together in some situations to form thicker tubes. The researchers next used a fluorescent dye to mark mitochondria from T cells and observed that the colour of mitochondria was drawn out of the immune cells, via those nanotubes, and into the cancer cells, when the cancer cells came in contact with the green-dyed mitochondria.
Co-corresponding author Hae-Lin Jang a lead researcher at the Center for Engineered Therapeutics revealed that the cell cancers were stealing the immune cells' energy source, an act described as thrilling since this type of behaviour in cancer cells was never been seen before.
The researchers then investigated the fact what would occur if cancer cells were stopped from stealing mitochondria. Scientists noticed that there is a substantial reduction in tumour development when they administered a nanotube formation inhibitor into mouse models which are used to investigate lung cancer and breast cancer.
"One of the goals in cancer immunotherapy is to find combinations of therapies that can improve outcomes," ANI reported, quoting lead author Tanmoy Saha, a postdoctoral researcher in the Center for Engineered Therapeutics. He went on to say that based on the findings, it appears that a nanotube formation inhibitor might be paired with cancer immunotherapies and examined to determine whether it improves patients' health outcomes.
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