A team from the Institute of Health Research and Innovation (i3S), in Porto, discovered the mechanism that allows cells to detect and correct errors and that may help to stratify therapies for different types of cancer.
The study, published in the journal ‘Journal of Cell Biology’ and which was “highlighted” in the journal “Science”, allowed us to discover that microtubules [cellular structures]communicate to cells when “it is necessary to correct errors”.
Speaking to Lusa, Helder Maiato, a researcher at the University of Porto institute, explained this Wednesday that although there are suspicions that these cellular structures “were not all the same”, it was unknown why.
“There were indications over 40 years ago that the microtubules were not all the same, but it was not known what these differences were for. A few years ago, we started to realize that these differences in microtubules would work as a kind of code ”, he added.
The result of more than five years of work, the study found that microtubules, previously considered passive elements in the process, are “a kind of cellular road” and that indicate to cells the “way forward”, that is, they indicate where they are “The mistakes”.
“When things are done well, the microtubules stay in a certain way. However, in the presence of errors, they acquire a slightly different composition, which is detected by the error correction mechanism of the cells, allowing them to discriminate where the errors are, ”explained Helder Maiato, who is also a professor at the Faculdade de Medicina da University of Porto (FMUP).
Microtubules also play an important role in cell division, since they are “the strings that pull chromosomes”, however, at this “delicate moment in the life of the cell”, several errors in the segregation of chromosomes can occur.
“The vast majority of human cancers have chromosome changes that occur at the time of cell division. The cells have error correction mechanisms, and when everything is going well, this mechanism ensures that the daughter cells receive the same number of chromosomes (23 pairs), but when it is not working well, as is the case with cancers This mechanism helps the cells of a certain type of cancer to gain an advantage ”, he explained.
According to Helder Maiato, the study, in addition to helping to “understand how the whole process occurs”, will also help in future to stratify therapies for different types of cancers.
“Many of the drugs currently used in chemotherapy target these microtubules and change their dynamics, which is curious because when we change the dynamics of these microtubules we also change the code and, knowing how the cell’s error detection mechanism responds to this code, we will know how in the therapies we change the code to have a useful purpose ”, advanced the researcher.
To Lusa, Helder Maiato added that the research team has already submitted a project application to the Foundation for Science and Technology (FCT) to understand whether “the code is altered or not in different types of cancers”.
“We are now going to investigate how this code is found in various types of cancer, what type of changes it undergoes and what implications the different changes to the code have for the properties of cancers,” he concluded.