Nav: Home

Researchers invented a tools to decode and control signalling circuits in living cells with flashes of light

May 17, 2017

Researchers at Turku Centre for Biotechnology have invented new tools for decoding and controlling signalling circuits in living cells with flashes of light. In principle, any cellular circuit can now be targeted with the new method. By using this approach, the researchers discovered that major biological signalling circuits can be made to resonate when driven at their resonant frequency.

Resonance is a familiar concept in music, physics and engineering and underlies technical approaches in chemistry, biology and medicine.

- Our discovery that signalling circuits of mammalian cells can made to resonate is new and likely to have a relevance in the treatment of diseases. With this method we can control when the signalling pathway is on or off, says Senior Researcher Michael Courtney from Turku Centre for Biotechnology at the University of Turku and Åbo Akademi University, Finland.

The team developed optogenetic inhibitors for protein kinases such as JNK which is a central regulator of cell function.

- JNK protein in the cell cytoplasm was not thought to regulate gene expression in the nucleus and continuous inhibition in the cytoplasm is ineffective. However, the team found that delivering a specific frequency of inhibition pulses to JNK in the cytoplasm drove inhibition of gene expression in the nucleus. This indicates that cell signalling circuits can be controlled in previously unforeseen ways once the appropriate time-code has been identified, says Courtney.

He explains that not only might cell circuit resonance play an unexpected role in degenerative disease processes, but it could even guide the discovery of new therapeutic approaches.

Interestingly, the only previous report on cell circuit resonance in the scientific literature showed it can be used to prevent microbial cells from growing. This new discovery of similar behaviour in mammalian cells suggests it could potentially be used to stop cancer cells from growing.

- Currently, the development of resistance to new drugs is a major problem in cancer, as it cost billions of dollars to develop and approve new drugs, and yet they can rapidly become ineffective as a treatment. With this new research information, we can perhaps change the frequency instead of using the same drug and in this way achieve a better outcome, says Courtney.

The research team's newly discovered phenomenon of circuit resonance in mammalian cells might offer a way to avoid or work around drug resistance. The researchers have now assembled a research consortium which has applied for funding in order to begin the evaluation of this idea.
-end-
The team started developing light-regulated tools while at the University of Eastern Finland. The project was funded primarily by the Academy of Finland's Photonics programme. The mammalian circuit resonance was discovered and characterised by the team after moving to the University of Turku. The team received support from the Turku BioImaging Screening Unit and funding from the National Cancer Institute in the Uniteds States, the EU-Marie Skłodowska-Curie programme, and Finnish foundations including the Magnus Ehrnrooth, Alfred Koredelin, Instrumentarium and Orion Foundations.

This work was published in the Nature Communications journal on 12 May 2017.

Original publication: Melero-Fernandez de Mera RM1, Li LL1, Popinigis A, Cisek K, Tuittila M, Yadav L, Serva A, Courtney MJ (2017) A simple optogenetic MAPK inhibitor design reveals resonance between transcription-regulating circuitry and temporally-encoded inputs. 1equal contribution. Nat. Commun. 8, 15017 doi: 10.1038/ncomms15017.

Read the article: https://www.nature.com/articles/ncomms15017

Freely useable drawing from the article: https://apps.utu.fi/media/tiedotteet/michael-kuva.png

More information: Senior Researcher Michael Courtney, University of Turku, Turku Centre for Biotechnology, tel. +358 (0)504649827 , e-mail miccou@utu.fi

University of Turku

Related Cancer Articles:

Cancer mortality continues steady decline, driven by progress against lung cancer
The cancer death rate declined by 29% from 1991 to 2017, including a 2.2% drop from 2016 to 2017, the largest single-year drop in cancer mortality ever reported.
Stress in cervical cancer patients associated with higher risk of cancer-specific mortality
Psychological stress was associated with a higher risk of cancer-specific mortality in women diagnosed with cervical cancer.
Cancer-sniffing dogs 97% accurate in identifying lung cancer, according to study in JAOA
The next step will be to further fractionate the samples based on chemical and physical properties, presenting them back to the dogs until the specific biomarkers for each cancer are identified.
Moffitt Cancer Center researchers identify one way T cell function may fail in cancer
Moffitt Cancer Center researchers have discovered a mechanism by which one type of immune cell, CD8+ T cells, can become dysfunctional, impeding its ability to seek and kill cancer cells.
More cancer survivors, fewer cancer specialists point to challenge in meeting care needs
An aging population, a growing number of cancer survivors, and a projected shortage of cancer care providers will result in a challenge in delivering the care for cancer survivors in the United States if systemic changes are not made.
New cancer vaccine platform a potential tool for efficacious targeted cancer therapy
Researchers at the University of Helsinki have discovered a solution in the form of a cancer vaccine platform for improving the efficacy of oncolytic viruses used in cancer treatment.
American Cancer Society outlines blueprint for cancer control in the 21st century
The American Cancer Society is outlining its vision for cancer control in the decades ahead in a series of articles that forms the basis of a national cancer control plan.
Oncotarget: Cancer pioneer employs physics to approach cancer in last research article
In the cover article of Tuesday's issue of Oncotarget, James Frost, MD, PhD, Kenneth Pienta, MD, and the late Donald Coffey, Ph.D., use a theory of physical and biophysical symmetry to derive a new conceptualization of cancer.
Health indicators for newborns of breast cancer survivors may vary by cancer type
In a study published in the International Journal of Cancer, researchers from the UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center analyzed health indicators for children born to young breast cancer survivors in North Carolina.
Few women with history of breast cancer and ovarian cancer take a recommended genetic test
More than 80 percent of women living with a history of breast or ovarian cancer at high-risk of having a gene mutation have never taken the test that can detect it.
More Cancer News and Cancer Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Making Amends
What makes a true apology? What does it mean to make amends for past mistakes? This hour, TED speakers explore how repairing the wrongs of the past is the first step toward healing for the future. Guests include historian and preservationist Brent Leggs, law professor Martha Minow, librarian Dawn Wacek, and playwright V (formerly Eve Ensler).
Now Playing: Science for the People

#566 Is Your Gut Leaking?
This week we're busting the human gut wide open with Dr. Alessio Fasano from the Center for Celiac Research and Treatment at Massachusetts General Hospital. Join host Anika Hazra for our discussion separating fact from fiction on the controversial topic of leaky gut syndrome. We cover everything from what causes a leaky gut to interpreting the results of a gut microbiome test! Related links: Center for Celiac Research and Treatment website and their YouTube channel
Now Playing: Radiolab

The Flag and the Fury
How do you actually make change in the world? For 126 years, Mississippi has had the Confederate battle flag on their state flag, and they were the last state in the nation where that emblem remained "officially" flying.  A few days ago, that flag came down. A few days before that, it coming down would have seemed impossible. We dive into the story behind this de-flagging: a journey involving a clash of histories, designs, families, and even cheerleading. This show is a collaboration with OSM Audio. Kiese Laymon's memoir Heavy is here. And the Hospitality Flag webpage is here.