Oxygen deficiency rewires mitochondria

Mitochondria burn oxygen and provide energy for the body. Cells lacking oxygen or nutrients have to change their energy supply quickly in order to keep growing. Scientists have now shown that mitochondria are reprogrammed under depleted oxygen and nutrients. Tumors of the pancreas may also use this reprogramming mechanism to keep growing despite reduced nutrient and oxygen levels. The researchers believe that proteins in this newly discovered signaling pathway could be a good target for therapies against pancreatic cancer, for which no drug is currently available.

Reduced growth of tumour cells

The researchers examined cancer cells originating from patients with pancreatic tumours. These tumours grow under oxygen deficiency and are highly aggressive. The scientists were able to reduce tumour growth by switching off the signalling pathway in the mitochondria. This was seen in cancer cells in the Petri dish as well as in pancreatic tumours in mice. “There is currently no treatment available for pancreatic cancer. I believe that this protease can be a very interesting therapeutic target because we have seen that the signalling pathway is also active in human patients with pancreatic cancer,” explains Langer. “However, there are no known substances that have an effect on this protease.”

Source: Science Daily