Breast cancer cells may have ‘electrical language’, study finds

This new study published in Communications Biology found that breast cancer cells behave much like neurons.

Several bioelectrical abnormalities occur in cells when they develop cancer. For example, the cell membrane, which surrounds cells, becomes more positively charged than healthy cell membranes.

Scientists argue this could point to an electrical communication network between cancer cells that could one day be the target of disruption, leading to the development of potential new treatments.

“When healthy cells become cancerous, the changes they undergo can help them grow and spread. We know, for example, that certain genes that control cell multiplication can turn off, causing uncontrolled cell growth” , said Dr Amanda Froust, co-lead author from the Department of Bioengineering at the Imperial School of London.

“We don’t yet know why membrane tension fluctuates in cancer cells, but our discovery and technology, made possible by the exciting collaboration of engineers and biologists, opens the door to further work that could help us better understand cancer signaling networks and their growth. ”

Electrical signals flicker and ripple

Eight breast cancer cell lines and one healthy breast cell line were used by the researchers to grow cells to assess strains. They used a microscope originally designed to capture the electrical activity of brain cells to record their cell membrane voltages, then used machine learning to classify and characterize the signals.

Cancer cell membrane tension has been found to fluctuate. Electrical signals that appear to “flicker” and “ripple”, although further research is needed, may be cells in communication.