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A new method for differentiating between cancerous and healthy cells

A group of researchers from Clarkson University discovered a new characteristic that distinguishes cancer cells from healthy cells - the difference in the properties of the cell's surface

Description of the method from the Clarkson University website
Description of the method from the Clarkson University website

A group of researchers from Clarkson University discovered a new characteristic that differentiates cancer cells from healthy cells - the difference in the properties of the cell's surface. The researchers discovered an essential difference between the surface characteristics of cancer cells and those of normal cells: differences in the cilia, or the tiny "hairs", that cover the cell surface. The findings point to the fact that it is no longer possible to ignore the layer of these hairs, as has been done until now, in the characterization of cells by mechanical methods. The researchers believe that the difference in the hair layers may have biological importance, and that this difference can be used to detect cancer cells.

These cilia on the cell envelope, which are mostly composed of thin hairs and micro-bumps (moderate elevation of the surface) are called microvillus (micro-villi) and are extremely important for the mutual activity and communication of the cells with their external environment. The lead researcher, Sokolov, and his colleagues processed force measurements—obtained from the cell surface using an atomic force microscope (AFM)—according to a model that explains these cilia, so that it can be quantitatively shown that cancer cells are different. Healthy cells have cilia of a certain length, while cancer cells have twice the length and are more dense.

The research was carried out using a physical instrument, an atomic force microscope, which is not an accepted tool for biological research. As a result, the differences found were beyond the measures obtained in traditional biological research.

"Cancer cells are traditionally detected by biochemical means," says the lead researcher. "However, despite many years of success, these methods did not lead to the complete eradication of cancer. Therefore, it is very important to look for other alternatives - non-traditional viewpoints regarding cancer. Examining the physical characteristics of the cell surface may be just such a non-traditional way."

The researchers also showed that the difference found in the cilia on the surface of the cell is practically undetectable using other microscopic methods.

The integrated research team includes a professor of physics, chemistry and biomolecular sciences, a professor of biology and other physics researchers.

The news on the Clarkson University website

8 תגובות

  1. Eddie and Oren:
    I have no problem with your thinking that there was even a slight chance that Eddie's question would receive an answer in this forum and so soon after the publication of the results, when their discoverers had not yet begun to trace their causes.
    In my opinion there was no such chance and that's what I said.
    If someone here gives a reasonable answer to the question it will turn out that I was wrong.
    If not, it will not be proven that I was right, but a certain confirmation of this will be received.

  2. Michael,
    Nothing personal - you know I appreciate you on the site, but Eddie is right. The site is intended for discussion beyond the article.
    Both ideas and questions from people outside the field and hopefully people with experience in the field will be able to contribute their knowledge.

    I'm pretty sure that ideas about the type of cell surface and the difference in cell interaction (between a cell with hairs vs. few hairs) can lead to ideas (and some of them may have already been tested not in the context of cancer cells) and I wouldn't mind hearing some.

  3. Michael,
    When I read the article, I also looked at its sources, which were quite laconic, and really didn't provide any insight beyond the factual discovery itself. On the other hand, the discovery itself could turn out to be fruitful in the treatment of malignant diseases - a desired goal by all accounts.
    I don't 'expect' anything. But I suppose there are some intelligent and knowledgeable readers who could, perhaps, come up with a plausible general hypothesis to explain the phenomenon, if they put in the effort. And maybe someone will have a creative idea regarding the utilization of the phenomenon... in any case it can develop an interesting conversation. What's wrong with such talk? I guess you don't really have any objection to that…

    May we all have only good and interesting things.

  4. fresh,
    Atomic force microscopy is not in much use in biology until recently by the way (relatively new to science in general). The microscope has surface sensitivity - and in fact a "picture" of the surface is built. And if the surface is too soft or creates a certain magnetic resonance, then there is a distortion of the resulting "image".

    Today the resolution of the AFM microscope has improved completely and allows things that were previously possible.

    I personally used such a microscope only once, in one of my laboratory courses during my studies. One of the things that showed us how sensitive it is to different parameters.

  5. fresh:
    The AFM was invented in 1986. It's not that long because it took a long time to equip it in laboratories (it is an expensive device whose cost can range from 20 thousand dollars to a million dollars).
    Besides - as explained - people thought that simpler microscopy, together with different chemical mechanisms, would be able to provide all the necessary information. After all, you didn't come and suggest them to do otherwise before you read the current news either.
    Every discovery is much simpler after it has been discovered.

    How can you expect that someone knew how to answer your question when it is a fact that no one anticipated and no one found out until recently?

  6. Can someone explain what is the reason why the cilia of cancer cells are longer, and what the resulting meaning is in terms of cell function? And how can we build on this difference for selective action?

  7. It's strange that only now in 2009 someone in the whole world bothered to observe cancer cells with an atomic force microscope, how come they didn't discover these differences in the hairiness of the cells before? Really weird, and doesn't make sense at all.
    Atomic force microscope is a new invention?

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