Issue Date: March 16, 2009
Double-Duty Cancer Killer
A new two-for-one molecule that helps kill cancer cells can also act as a beacon for the cellular viscosity changes that result from the fatal blow. The molecule could become a useful tool for researchers who wish to study drug transport and diffusion in cells, note chemists Marina K. Kuimova of Imperial College London and Peter R. Ogilby of the University of Aarhus, in Denmark, who developed the compound (Nat. Chem., DOI: 10.1038/nchem.120). The European team first built a conjugated porphyrin dimer that creates cytotoxic oxygen species when irradiated with light, a clinical cancer treatment also known as photodynamic therapy. The team then examined the rotation of the porphyrin dimer by monitoring the fluorescence of the molecule as it spun within a cell, a motion that correlates with cellular viscosity. The chemists show that there is an increase in the viscosity of a cell by about an order of magnitude near the molecular beacon after cell death has been initiated. The viscosity jump may be the result of cross-linking reactions catalyzed by the reactive oxygen species, but this is still under investigation, Kuimova notes.
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