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UCLA Team Maps Mitochondrial Networks in Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer

Using a combination of different cutting-edge imaging technologies, scientists from the University of California, Los Angeles have generated three-dimensional ultra-resolution maps of mitochondrial networks in lung tumors, revealing new details about their role in non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). Mitochondria play an important role in metabolism and bioenergetics in cancer cells, but little is known about the structural organization of mitochondrial networks and their bioenergetic activity at the in vivo level. In their study, which appears in Nature this week, the researchers use an integrated platform consisting of positron emission tomography imaging, respirometry, and 3D scanning block-face electron microscopy to analyze mitochondrial networks and bioenergetic phenotypes across mouse and human NSCLC tumors. They find that within the two primary subtypes of NSCLC — adenocarcinoma and squamous-cell carcinoma — mitochondrial networks are compartmentalized into distinct subpopulations that govern the bioenergetic capacity of the different tumors. As such, defining the relationship between mitochondrial architecture and a tumor's metabolic dependencies may help develop diagnostic and therapeutic strategies that can be leveraged to exploit bioenergetic and metabolic liabilities unique to lung cancer subtypes, the study's authors write.