Nanotechnology used to differentiate cancer cells from normal cells
NEWS IN BRIEF — Posted Dec. 24, 2007
Metastatic cancer cells are softer than normal cells when assessed by atomic force microscopy, a nanotechnological tool, and this may become a new way to detect this condition, according to a paper published online Dec. 2 in Nature Nanotechnology.
Researchers assessed the stiffness of cells taken from the bodily fluids of patients with cancers of the lung, breast and pancreas. Diseased cells were 70% softer than healthy ones.
This is being viewed as a significant advance because conventional diagnostic methods rely on visual examination of these cells with a microscope and various staining techniques. They miss about 30% of cases.
"The metastatic cancer cells were extremely soft and easily distinguishable from the normal cells despite similarities in appearance," said Sarah Cross, the lead author and a graduate student in chemistry and biochemistry at the University of California, Los Angeles.
Atomic force microscopy uses a nano-sized tip to measure the elasticity of the cell, and researchers intend to study next whether assessment of cancer cells in this way can lead to more targeted chemotherapy.
Note: This item originally appeared at http://www.ama-assn.org/amednews/2007/12/24/hlbf1224.htm.