STANFORD, Calif. - Researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine have developed a molecular probe that sets aglow tumor cells within living animals. Their goal is to use the probe to improve the diagnosis and treatment of cancer and other diseases.
The probe's main ingredient is a molecule that labels active proteases - protein-destroying enzymes - that run amok in cancerous cells. The molecule is normally invisible to the naked eye but it carries a fluorescent tag that lights up when it binds to the protease. The tag beams out near-infrared light that passes through skin and is detectable with a special camera. The use of the imaging technique in mice is described in a study to be published in the Sept. 9 advance online issue of Nature Chemical Biology.
"Nowadays the detection of cancer, breast cancer for instance, is normally done by mammography, using X-rays - which might actually increase your risk of cancer. We think these probes may ultimately provide a less harmful, noninvasive method of detecting cancer," said the article's lead author Galia Blum, PhD, a postdoctoral scholar in the laboratory of Matthew Bogyo, PhD, assistant professor of pathology.
And that's just for starters.
"It's neat. The next generation of our experiments will apply the probes during surgery," said Bogyo, the study's senior author. "It would be nice to 'paint' it on tissues so you could distinguish between tumor and non-tumor."
A key advantage of this enzyme-targeting molecule is its size. About 100 times smaller than other molecular imaging reporters, it can easily slip across the cell membrane and enter living cells. It can also move through the animal quickly, which opens up the possibility of using the technique to light up tumors while surgery is in progress.
"Unlike other enzyme-targeting molecules, it's very specific, sticks to where it binds and does it all very rapidly - in 30 minutes or less," Bogyo sai
|Contact: Rosanne Spector|
Stanford University Medical Center