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Light shines for potential early cancer diagnosis technique
Date:12/11/2008

s in the early stages of carcinogenesis.

"We have to look at cell morphology at the nanoscale," said Backman. "Cells are not just a bag of molecules -- the nanoarchitecture can control many cellular processes and activities."

The team studied three variants of malignant human cells, each exhibiting a different degree of aggressive behavior. (In all three, the malignancy resulted from genetic alteration.)

Using PWS, the researchers were able to distinguish each cell line. They found architectural disorder in all three but of varying degrees; the most aggressively malignant cell line showed the most intracellular disorder. When viewed using microscopy, all three cell lines looked normal, and each was indistinguishable from the others. The same trend was found in the researchers' study of cells from an animal model.

"If the PWS screening technique for colon cancer is validated by appropriate clinical trials, there is the potential for preventing many thousands of cancer deaths each year," said Allen Taflove, professor of electrical engineering and computer science at Northwestern. He collaborated with Backman in conducting computer simulations of how light interacts with the complex structure of a cell and is an author of the paper.

In addition to cancer research, PWS could find use in biomechanics (to study the nanoscale architecture of polymers, materials or tissue), tissue engineering and stem cell research.

"Anywhere you use microscopy you could use PWS and get more information," said Backman. "PWS can work with virtually anything, and it can detect features as small as 20 nanometers."


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Contact: Megan Fellman
fellman@northwestern.edu
847-491-3115
Northwestern University
Source:Eurekalert

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