University of Copenhagen: You can feel this acid when you work out. Now it may help increase knowledge of cancer medicine

When the muscles become acidic after doing too many press-ups, squats or cycling to work, it is because of lactic acid.

Strained muscles produce energy fast, and a by-product of that process is lactic acid. However, lactic acid is also abundant in cancer cells, which invest a lot of energy into dividing and forming tumours.

Now a new study from the University of Copenhagen reveals that specific enzymes can remove lactic acid marks from proteins, and the researchers hope this will increase our understanding of the effect of cancer medicine, among others.

What is lactic acid marks?
Various epigenetic marks affect the way human DNA is read. One of these marks originates from lactic acid. Lactic acid forms as a by-product when cells require large amounts of energy, e.g., when muscle cells are put to work or cancer cells are busy dividing.

“Of course, the ultimate goal is to develop drugs with as few side effects as possible,” says Professor Christian Adam Olsen from the Department of Drug Design and Pharmacology, who is responsible for the new study. He adds:

“The more knowledge we are able to generate about the enzymes that are able to remove lactic acid marks, the easier it will be to design new drug candidates capable of targeting these specific enzymes. So the discovery may affect the development of new cancer medicine using these enzymes as the target.”

The process that leads to lactic acid both helps the body out in connection with e.g. physical exercise and corrupts it in connection with cancer. Therefore, it is interesting to determine how the level of lactic acid affects the human cells.

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