For decades, scientists around the world have been investigating the structure of the protective layer of cancer cells. Their aim is to create tools to prevent the development of the structure. In their experiments the researchers at Freie Universität initially targeted the natural building blocks for the construction of the protective layer. They then changed the components used in the cell so that they were still perceived by the relevant enzymes but not incorporated in the protective shield. Instead, the artificially designed building blocks glued so tightly to the enzyme that they could not be transferred to the shield and thus blocked the process.
In collaboration with scientists at the University Hospital in Halle and the Leibniz Institute for Molecular Pharmacology, the group led by Jörg Rademann was able to demonstrate that these obstructing components are absorbed well by the cells. With the help of dye markers, the researchers were able to show that these molecules are transported to the location where the protective shield is built. The molecules then inhibit the transmission of natural building blocks, significantly reducing the protective layer of the cancer cells.
Johannes J. Preidl, Vinaya S. Gnanaprassam, Michael Lisurek, Jörn Saupe, Rüdiger Horstkorte, Jörg Rademann: "Fluorescent Mimetics of CMP-Neu5Ac Are Highly Potent, Cell-Permeable Polarization Probes of Eukaryotic and Bacterial Sialyltransferases and Inhibit Cellular Sialylation" in: Angewandte Chemie – International Edition, doi: 10.1002/anie.201400394 (English version), 10.1002/ange.201400394 (German version).