Macropinocytosis is a cellular process that occurs in cancer cells. Even though this process may help cancer as it spreads through the body, new research also gives hope for treatment.
What is Macropinocytosis?
All cells, including cancer cells, have a membrane that serves as a protective layer. The membrane has to be intact because the cell is full of fluid. However, if damage does occur, the entire cell will die unless it can sanction the damaged and restore the membrane.
There are several processes that cells use to repair themselves. Macropinocytosis is just one of them, and it occurs in other cell types. The recently published study done by a research team from Denmark shows that specific cancer cells also use this process.
Macropinocytosis is a process in which the healthy cell membrane surrounds the damaged area and envelopes it. After this, the lysosomes ‘digested’ the broken pieces of the membrane. The process is often described as recycling because the cell reuses mater to grow or divide.
In this experiment, the researchers damaged the cellular membrane of a specific type of cancer cells (MCF-7) with a laser. After this, they observed as the cancer cells initiated macropinocytosis to repair the damage. But they also used chemicals to stop the repair process, resulting in the death of the cell.
“Our research provides very basic knowledge about how cancer cells survive. In our experiments, we have also shown that cancer cells die if the process is inhibited, and this points towards macropinocytosis as a target for future treatment. It is a long-term perspective, but it is interesting”.