MIT study shows why cancer cells switch to the sluggish process of sugar breakdown


A new study by scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) has found how cancer cells use an unusual process of multiplication. The study, which answers a long-standing mystery on the proliferation of unhealthy cells in the human body, will be published in Molecular cell magazine.

The study was conducted by MIT biologist Matthew Vander Heiden, senior author and lead authors of the new study, former MIT graduate student and postdoc Alba Luango (PhD ’18) and graduate student, Zhaoqi Li. Their research showed that the fermentation process, known as fermentation, helps cancer cells to regenerate large amounts of a molecule called NAD +, which they need to synthesize DNA and other important molecules. it occurs. Speaking to MIT News, Hayden stated that according to his study under certain circumstances, cells need to carry out electron transfer reactions that require NAD + to form molecules such as DNA.

Fermentation is a way that cells can convert the energy found in sugar into adenosine triphosphate (ATP). ATP is a chemical that is used by cells to store energy for their needs. Humans use a process called aerobic respiration where cells break down sugar to reach ATP. However, the cells switch to a less efficient method called fermentation when there is a lack of oxygen.

German chemist Otto Warburg found that it is usually cancerous cells that metabolize sugar using the process of fermentation. Scientists have since proposed various theories to explain why cancer cells turn into more lethal ways of breaking cells but with little success.

To understand this reason, MIT scientists prevented the ability of cancer cells to carry out the fermentation process. With this, he observed that the growth of cancer cells was hindered. Researchers then introduced another method of cell growth by stimulating cells to produce NAD +, a molecule that helps cells dispose of excess electrons left to form molecules such as DNA and proteins.

With this experiment, researchers found that cells began to proliferate again despite their inability to ferment. Results generated from this study led researchers to conclude that when cells are growing rapidly, they require more NAD + than ATP requires. And since in aerobic respiration, cells produce a great deal of ATP and some NAD +, they turn to fermentation. Scientists found that if cells could consume as much ATP as they could accumulate, their respiratory rate and production of NAD + also decreased.

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