Of zinc ions, MRIs, and those ubiquitous research mice again

According to a story issued by the media staff for the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, a novel form of MRI technique may be able to distinguish between healthy prostate tissue and cancerous prostate tissue — based on zinc levels in the tissues.

The full story issued by UT Southwestern is available on line; the original research is supposedly published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science. However, we have yet to identify the abstract of the original paper.

The ability to distinguish between health prostate tissue and cancerous prostate cancer tissue with a high degree of accuracy using some form of MRI scan would be an important step forward in the assessment of risk for and the actual diagnosis of prostate cancer. What is not clear yet is just how high the degree of accuracy for this new technique in humans (since the current research appears to be based on data from mouse models). However, …

Most prostate cancers are cadenocarcinomas that originate in epithelial cells. The UT research group has been able to determined that glucose stimulates release of zinc ions (Zn2+ ions) from inside epithelial cells. These zinc ions can then be tracked using MRI scanning. Because prostate cancer tissues secrete lower levels of zinc ions tan healthy prostate tissues, it provides a hypothetical mechanism to be able to distinguish between the cancerous and the healthy tissues.

The “New” Prostate Cancer InfloLink finds this possibility to be interesting, but we suspect that there may be a lot of work to come before we will know if this new technique can actually meet the relevant criteria for “a high degree of accuracy” when it comes to separating the wheat from the chaff.

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