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UIC chemists identify compound that inhibits cell migration

A high-throughput assay developed by University of Illinois at Chicago chemists has led to discovery of a small organic compound that shows the unusual ability to inhibit cell migration. The new compound, identified as UIC-1005, may play a role in developing new kinds of cancer drugs.

The findings are published in the November issue of the journal ChemBioChem.

"We've been looking for chemical compounds that slow the process of cell migration," said Gabriel Fenteany, assistant professor of chemistry and the study's principal author. "The process is poorly understood and has a lot of therapeutic potential."

Fenteany is also part of the UIC Cancer Center.

Fenteany and his co-workers grow skin-like epithelial cell sheets on tissue culture plates with many small depressions, or wells, each of which contains a culture of cells and a different chemical compound, providing the basis for the assay.

"We grow these cells and make little scratches in the resulting sheet of cells," Fenteany said. "A little gap forms, and cells move in to close that gap, similar to part of the wound healing process when you cut yourself.

"The process is also related to how a cancer cell will start to move to form a metastasis, and to how a tumor will recruit new blood vessels, which helps it grow," Fenteany said. "The phenomenon of cell shape change and movement is universal, even though details differ on how these cells move in different situations."

The assay developed by the UIC chemists makes the process to find molecules that inhibit cell movement quick and easy.

"We can easily screen a thousand compounds a day, or more," Fenteany said, adding, "We're one of the few labs doing these sorts of screens. Therefore, there's not really a good sense of what sorts of compounds will inhibit the process. That's what we're looking at."

Fenteany and his colleagues began their search using the high-throughput assay in December 2000
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Contact: Paul Francuch
francuch@uic.edu
312-996-3457
University of Illinois at Chicago
22-Oct-2002


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