Cells rely on certain proteins, such as E-cadherin, to regulate and maintain normal tissue structure. Scientists have found that when cancer cells become more aggressive, they often lose E-cadherin, allowing them to grow and spread completely unregulated. When the cells are forced to express E-cadherin, research suggests that their aggressive growth is stopped. However, scientists have previously been unable to study the full impact of the protein on cell regulation.
In a study published in the journal PLoS ONE, researchers created and used a new imaging platform to study the real-time effects of E-cadherin on a chick embryo implanted with human cancer cells. E-cadherin was injected directly into the cancerous tumor, and the researchers were able to monitor the effect of the protein on each individual cancer cell in the tumor in real time for a 48-hour period.
The researchers hope that their new technology will allow scientists to more closely study the effects of E-cadherin and other proteins on the growth and development of aggressive cancer cells. While several proteins have been identified through genomic research that may suppress tumor growth, they have not yet been validated through clinical trials on mice because scientists have not been able to determine the effects of the protein on each individual cancer cell. The authors of the study hope that their new technology will provide compelling photographic evidence of the effectiveness of certain proteins in tumor suppression and offer more insight into the mechanisms at work.