A tumor (red) within a frog embryo  (Source: Brook Chernet; Tufts University School of Arts and Sciences)
It could be an early cancer indicator

Researchers have found a way to not only detect cancer through the use of bioelectric signals, but also control the cancerous cells.

A team of biologists from Tufts University School of Arts and Sciences, led by Brook Chernet, have used bioelectric signals to pinpoint cells that are likely to transform into tumors and even lowered the number of cases where cells turned cancerous.

Bioelectric signals are changes in electric currents created by the sum of electrical potential differences across a specialized tissue, cell system or organ. They regulate how cells behave, such as growing and multiplying.

Tufts scientists had previously shown that controlling membrane voltage can affect cell behavior such as proliferation and shape in vivo. They also found that this can induce the regenerative repair or even formation of whole organs.

In this study, the team encouraged tumor growth in frog embryos using messenger RNA (mRNA) that have human oncogenes Gli1, KrasG12D and Xrel3. The embryos experienced tumor growths like leukemia, melanoma and lung cancer.

When using a membrane voltage-sensitive dye and fluorescence microscopy, the team found that the tumors had different depolarized membrane voltage compared to normal tissue. This allowed the researchers to identify tumors.

In addition, the team lowered the incidence of cancerous tumors. It did this by countering the tumor-inducing depolarization with an injection of mRNA containing certain ion channels into the cells. The embryos with oncogenes were injected with one of two ion channels: either GlyR-F99A or Kir4.1). These ion channels are proteins that control the passage of ions across cell membranes.

In both cases, the ion channels hyperpolarized membrane voltage gradients in the frog embryos and lowered the case of successive tumors.

Source: Science Daily

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