CytoSwitch - "Inducing cell death using a photostatin on the CardioExcyte 96 and SOL"
Microtubules are important for cell support, acting as a kind of internal scaffold providing both shapeand an organized structure. Another important role of microtubules is the formation of the mitotic spindle which is critical in cell division. For this reason,compounds which control microtubule dynamics such as Taxol and Vinca alkaloids are important as anti-cancer therapeutics and biological research tools. Other compounds e.g. combretastin A-4 (CA4), have been shown to be powerful inhibitors of tubule polymerization. Until now, the use of such compounds in both biological research and as anti-cancer agentshas been limited because of their non-specificity; their bioactivity cannot be spatially or temporally directed,e.g. against particular tissues or cells. As an anti-cancer agent, CA4 was taken into Phase III clinical trials but was discontinued due to the cardio- or neurotoxic side effects at high doses as healthy organs were affected. The use of light to control the activity of microtubule inhibitors may offer a solution to combat the specificity problem by controlling the activation of the compound using visible light in a spatial, temporal and reversible fashion. The CytoSwitch startup project at the LMU Munich is developing photostatins as anti-cancer agents with reduced side-effects. Furthermore, CytoSwitch will commercialize photostatins as research tools for biological research.