When it comes to mesothelioma treatment, early diagnosis is the key to an improved survival rate, increased treatment options, and an enhanced quality of life. While there is currently no reliable screening method for detecting the presence of mesothelioma before symptoms set in, scientists have found hope in a bioelectric process that may help them identify cells that are “likely to develop into tumors.”
Researchers at Tufts University School of Arts and Sciences are determined to learn whether they may be able to control cancer growth by manipulating bioelectric signals, which we already know are involved in regulating the growth and multiplication of cells. In a recent study, these scientists were able to use bioelectrics to identify future cancer cells and to “lower the incidence of cancerous cells” by controlling the signals.
“The news here is that we’ve established a bioelectric basis for the early detection of cancer,” says Brook Chernet, doctoral student and the first author of the research paper “Transmembrane Voltage Potential is an Essential Cellular Parameter for the Detection and Control of Tumor Development.”
The researchers worked on a tadpole model to induce tumor growth. Next, they used a membrane voltage-sensitive die and fluorescence microscopy to analyze tumor cells, finding that a unique bioelectric signature may help identify tumor sites. The scientists went on to learn that changing the bioelectric code of certain cells can suppress abnormal cell growth.
“We’ve shown that electric events tell the cells what to do,” said co-author Michael Levin, Ph.D., professor of biology and director of the Center for Regenerative and Developmental Biology. “The voltage changes are not merely a sign of cancer. They control and direct whether the cancer occurs or not.”
In conclusion, the researchers stated, “The ability to detect such tumors and their edges using a non-invasive (optical sensing) approach suggests exciting possibilities for a new detection and diagnostic modality.” They went on to say that pharmacological applications of the findings “points to a new class of therapies for suppressing tumors based on ion channel drugs that are already approved for human use.”