Neural precursor cells suppress aggressive tumors

Published on July 23, 2012 at 12:45 PM · No Comments

MDC and Charite researchers decipher the mechanism of action

Neural precursor cells (NPC) in the young brain suppress certain brain tumors such as high-grade gliomas, especially glioblastoma (GBM), which are among the most common and most aggressive tumors. Now researchers of the Max Delbr-ck Center for Molecular Medicine (MDC) Berlin-Buch and Charit- - Universit-tsmedizin Berlin have deciphered the underlying mechanism of action with which neural precursor cells protect the young brain against these tumors. They found that the NPC release substances that activate TRPV1 ion channels in the tumor cells and subsequently induce the tumor cells to undergo stress-induced cell-death. (Nature Medicine http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/nm.2827).

Despite surgery, radiation or chemotherapy or even a combination of all three treatment options, there is currently no cure for glioblastoma. In an earlier study the research group led by Professor Helmut Kettenmann (MDC) showed that neural precursor cells migrate to the glioblastoma cells and attack them. The neural precursor cells release a protein belonging to the family of BMP proteins (bone morphogenetic protein) that directly attacks the tumor stem cells. The current consensus of researchers is that tumor stem cells are the actual cause for continuous tumor self-renewal.

Kristin Stock, Jitender Kumar, Professor Kettenmann (all MDC), Dr. Michael Synowitz (MDC and Charit-), Professor Rainer Glass (Munich University Hospitals, formerly MDC) and Professor Vincenzo Di Marzo (Istituto di Chimica Biomolecolare Pozzuoli, Naples, Italy) now report a new mechanism of action of NPC in astrocytomas. Like glioblastomas, astrocytomas are brain tumors that belong to the family of gliomas. Gliomas are most common in older people and are almost invariably fatal.

As the MDC researchers showed, the NPC also migrate to the astrocytomas. There they do not secrete proteins, but rather release fatty-acid substances (endovanilloids) which are harmful to the cancer cells. However, in order to exert their lethal effect, the endovanilloids need the aid of a specific ion channel, the TRPV1 channel (transient receptor potential vanilloid type 1), also called the vanilloid receptor 1. TRPV1 is already known to researchers as a transducer of painful stimuli. It has, among other things, a binding site for capsaicin, the irritant of hot chili peppers, and is responsible for the hot sensation after eating them. Clinical trials are currently underway to develop new pain treatments by blocking or desensitizing this ion channel.MDC researchers describe an additional role of the TRPV1 ion channel

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