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Tumour diagnosis: new method visualises complex biochemical changes in individual cells

(Vienna, 4th March 2013) The team led by Markus Hengstschläger, Head of the Institute of Medical Genetics at the MedUni Vienna, has developed a new method for detecting complex enzyme deregulations in individual cells and has published its findings in the highly respected journal “Nature Protocols”. The method will in future allow a more targeted treatment of cancer.  

A normal cell in the body changes into a tumour cell when enzymes that are responsible for the transmission of signals are changed (“deregulated”). These changes can take many forms and affect, for example, the quantity of enzyme, the activity of the enzyme, the location of the enzyme within the cell or even the enzyme fluctuation during the cell cycle (the cell's “lifetime” being termed the period between two cell divisions). Until now, analyses could generally only be carried out in one of these dimensions.

With the new method, it is now possible to explore multiple dimensions of enzyme deregulation simultaneously. The process also requires significantly less sample material than previously. Says Hengstschläger: “The earlier and more sensitively the detection of tumour-triggering enzyme changes in cells takes place, the sooner therapeutic measures can be put in place and the cellular effects of tumour drugs can be investigated and demonstrated more accurately.”

The new method is based on the “flow cytometry” process, a widely-known, high-tech measuring method in which many cells can be analysed simultaneously for specific, yet different properties, and this method has now been published in the technical journal “Nature Protocols”. The authors have already used the new method for a series of proteins that are of relevance to the development of tumours and compared their regulation in normal cells (stem cells or fibroblasts) with their regulation in certain tumour cells. The Vienna scientists led by Markus Hengstschläger are keen to try out the method in future research projects on a large number of different types of degenerate cells that are characteristic of individual tumour-related diseases.

Service: original publication in Nature Protocols

Rosner M., Schipany K., Hengstschläger M. (2013): “Merging high-quality biochemical fractionation with a refined flow cytometry approach to monitor nucleocytoplasmic protein expression throughout the unperturbed mammalian cell cycle” Nature Protocols 8, 602-626 (2013), doi: 10.1038/nprot.2013.011