Contrary to popular belief, before gene transcription and proteins, metabolism is acutely sensitive to change. In some cases, rapid changes in substrate availability can then become a signal to initiate signaling cascades or gene transcription. Since metabolism is dynamic and the probes we develop require a relevant system, we utilize custom-designed MR-compatible bioreactors to investigate changes in the metabolism of our HP probes and compare them to other multimodality approaches.
Recently we’ve shown that the cell’s ability to transport lactate, a by-product of increased glycolytic metabolism, could inform on renal cell carcinoma aggressiveness (1). This we could visualize in an MR-compatible bioreactor system with HP pyruvate (Figure 2). We can then develop schemes to translate this phenomenon in vivo, for instance by using diffusion (2).
While changes in the metabolism of immortal cells and animal models have been used as the basis for probe and drug discovery, it has been difficult to translate these mechanisms to the clinic. This is possibly due to the deviation between the metabolism of these cells and the actual human condition. For this reason, we’ve begun to explore the use of human tissue slice cultures (TSCs) with our hyperpolarized probes for translation. In some recent work (3), we show that the metabolism of primary human prostate tissue slices are very different from that of immortal cells and show hyperpolarized lactate as a biomarker for prostate cancer (Figure 3). We are in the process of developing new probes for study in TSCs and their translation to the clinic.