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Glucose Metabolism Is Surprisingly Normal In Cancer, Says New Study

Glucose, a simple sugar contained in food, is one of the body's most important nutrients and a major energy source in mammalian cells. Many studies identify that an increased dependence or higher intake of glucose is a hallmark of the development of cancer cells.

This is because cancer cells have a high demand for cellular metabolites to duplicate their entire content and, thus, for their rapid growth and proliferation, cancer cells require more energy from glucose metabolism. [1]

However, this may not be the case, as researchers from Washington University in St. Louis have found evidence that this phenomenon may not be as unusual as previously thought and that cancerous cells don't use glucose as efficiently for energy.

Take a look at the details of the study. It was published on 15 August in the journal Molecular Cell. [2]

About The Study

In the study, it was revealed that though cancer cells seem to be the major devourers of glucose in the body, this wasn't the case when experiments were conducted.

Cancer cells have trouble metabolising glucose. They don't make the most of the energy in glucose, instead releasing most of it as waste.

According to the researchers of the study, cells get energy from glucose when they transport glucose's transformation products into mitochondria. This is a biochemical law, and cells must adhere to it to gain energy.

As cancer cells are suspected to increase the metabolism of glucose, while experimenting, it was found that cancer cells actually follow the criteria and do not increase glucose metabolism.

This was stated by Gary Patti, Michael and Tana Powell Professor of Chemistry in Arts & Sciences and of genetics and medicine in the School of Medicine. Patti is also a researcher at the Siteman Cancer Center at Barnes-Jewish Hospital and the School of Medicine, and the study's senior author.

Cancer Cells And Mitochondria

Mitochondria, the tiny compartments inside cells, are referred to as the "powerhouses" of the cell.

Otto Warburg, a famous biochemist, made the initial finding of tumour wastefulness in the 1920s. It is his theory that damaged mitochondria explain why cancer cells are unable to extract additional energy from glucose.

However, in the new study, Patti explains the strange metabolism activity of cancerous cells by saying that most tumours actually feature working and active mitochondria and that they can metabolise glucose in their mitochondria for as long as possible. However, they can choose not to do the same and thereby prevent their mitochondrial activities.

So, the reason why glucose metabolism decreases in cancer is that the rate at which glucose-derived molecules are delivered into the mitochondria can't keep up with the rate at which glucose is consumed.

Meaning, that glucose is only wasted by cancer cells because mitochondrial transport is too slow.

To Conclude

In future-based studies, scientists were able to tag glucose's numerous components and track their movement within cells, as well as observe the rate at which chemicals entered mitochondria or were expelled from cells.

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