NUS scientists discover novel therapy to activate muscle cells’ natural defenses against cancer

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SINGAPORE: Scientists at the National University of Singapore (NUS) have made a groundbreaking discovery in the fight against cancer. A team of researchers led by Associate Professor Alfredo Franco-Obregón from the NUS Institute for Health Innovation & Technology (iHealthtech) has unveiled a novel approach to stimulate muscle cells using brief and mild pulsed electromagnetic field exposure.

This innovative method activates the release of proteins with potent anticancer properties, which can circulate throughout the body, providing systemic protection against cancer.

Exercise is widely recognized for its protective effects against various cancers, including breast, prostate, and colon cancers, and it also improves the survival rates of cancer patients. However, many patients cannot exercise due to the debilitating effects of cancer and its treatments, limiting their ability to benefit from these protective effects. The BICEPS lab’s magnetic therapy method offers a promising alternative.

“The BICEPS lab’s method of stimulating muscle cells uses a form of magnetic therapy that exhibits key commonalities with exercise,” said Assoc Prof Franco-Obregón. “This latest study demonstrated that our non-invasive method of muscle stimulation mobilizes a similar anticancer defense as exercise, bringing us a step closer to developing drug-free therapeutics. This could help patients who are unable to exercise benefit from the anticancer agents stimulated by exercise.”

Published in the journal *Cells* on March 5, 2024, the study detailed how the NUS team demonstrated that exposing isolated muscle cells to 10 minutes of low-energy magnetic fields boosts muscle development by stimulating the release of regenerative and rejuvenating proteins. These proteins, in turn, offer protection against diseases such as diabetes and cancer.

In the new study, the researchers investigated whether the same magnetic stimulation protocol could trigger the production and release of anticancer agents from intact muscles in preclinical models. They tested this hypothesis at the cellular level and found that magnetically stimulated muscle cells could inhibit the growth, invasion, and migration of breast cancer cells, key markers of cancer progression. Additionally, these cells were able to shrink micro-tumors and reduce their blood vessel formation.

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