Sugar-Coated Cells Are Deadly For Cancer Patients, Study Finds
Every living cell's surface has a protein-embedded membrane. That membrane is covered in polysaccharide chains - a literal sugar coating. The coating is especially thick and pronounced on cancer cells and is an important determinant of the cell's survival, according to a new study.
The coating, consisting of long sugar-decorated molecules called glycoproteins, causes physical changes in the cell membrane that make the cell better able to thrive. This leads to a more lethal cancer, the press release added.
Researchers further found that long glycoprotein chains on a cancer cell's surface cause the cell membrane to push away from its environment, bending inward. This physical change leads to adhesion receptors on the cell surface to clump together.
This clustering mechanism causes the integrins to alter the cell's normal signaling, leading to unchecked growth and survival, researchers added in the press release.
"Changes to the sugar composition on the cell surface could alter physically how receptors are organized," said Matthew Paszek, assistant professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering at Cornell and Valerie Weaver, at the University of California, San Francisco, in the press release."That's really the big thing: coupling the regulation of the sugar coating to these biochemical signaling molecules."
The study has been published in the journal Nature.