A team of researchers from the University of Chicago and the University of Barcelona has found that intermittent hypoxia, or an irregular lack of air experienced by people with sleep apnea, can increase tumor growth by promoting the release of circulating exosomes. Their results were published in the November 2016 issue of the journal CHEST. The article is titled “Tumor Cell Malignant Properties Are Enhanced by Circulating Exosomes in Sleep Apnea.” Obstructive sleep apnea has been associated with increased incidence of cancer and mortality. In order to better understand the connection between the two, investigators took a detailed look at lung cancer tumor cell growth in mice. Half of the mice experienced regular breathing patterns, while the other half were exposed to intermittent hypoxia (IH) to simulate sleep apnea. The team found that exosomes released in the mice exposed to IH enhanced the malignant properties of the lung cancer cells. Exosomes are microscopic spheres that transport proteins, lipids, mRNAs, and miRNAs between cells, similar to courier messengers delivering packages. They play a central role in cell-to-cell communication and are involved in promoting cancer cell growth and metastasis. "Exosomes are currently under intense investigation since they have been implicated in the modulation of a wide range of malignant processes," explained lead investigator David Gozal, M.D., M.B.A., Department of Pediatrics, Pritzker School of Medicine, The University of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois. "Hypoxia can increase exosomal release and selectively modify exosome contents such as to enhance tumor proliferation and angiogenesis.
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