They are among a number of researchers attempting to decipher the association of molecular and mechanical events that lead to cancer and its progression. As they are successful, physicians will be able to make better diagnostic and treatment decisions based not only on an individual's genetic fingerprint but also a biomechanical signature.
However, since cancer has multiple causes, various levels of severity, and a wide range of individual responses to the same treatments, the research on cancer progression has been challenging.
A turning point to the research has come with recent advances in nanotechnology, combined with engineering and medicine. Agah and his colleagues now have the critical ability to study the elastic or stretching ability of cells as well as their ability to stick to other cells. These studies on the biomechanics of the cell, linked to a cell's structure "are crucial for the development of disease-treating drugs and detection methods," Agah said.
Using an atomic force microscope (AFM), a relatively new invention by research standards, they are able to characterize cell structure to nanoscale precision. The microscope analyzes live cultured cells and it is able to detect key biomechanical differences between non-transformed and cancerous cells.
From these studies, cancerous cells appear softer or deform at a higher rate than their healthier, non-transformed counterparts, Agah said. In addition, their fluidity increases.
|Contact: Lynn Nystrom|