Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

A better way to measure the stiffness of cancer cells

01.03.2017

Laser technique peers through individual cells to gauge stiffness with unprecedented speed

Biomedical engineers at Duke University have discovered a way to detect signs of cancer on a cell-by-cell basis using two lasers and a camera.


Images of cells are analyzed to calculate the level of disorder in their internal structures. The more orderly the cell, the stiffer it may be, possibly indicating cancer.

Credit: Adam Wax, Duke University


As liquid flows past a cell, internal structures shift in the direction of the flow. The amount of shift can reveal a cell's stiffness, which is higher in cancerous tissue. Blue areas indicate the cell's internal structures are becoming less dense, whereas the red areas are becoming more so.

Credit: Adam Wax, Duke University

Several medical devices currently in use and in clinical trials around the world look for increases in cellular stiffness as an indicator of cancerous tissue. These devices, however, rely on readings from many cells clustered together within the body and cannot operate on a cellular level.

In a study published online Feb. 28 in the Biophysical Journal, researchers describe a technique for assessing an individual cell's stiffness using patterns that appear within its internal structure. The results show that the more organized its innards, the stiffer the cell.

In previous work, Adam Wax, professor of biomedical engineering at Duke, showed that a cell's internal structures shift as fluids flow around its exterior.

"Think of a cell as a large Jell-O mold with a lot of fruit suspended in it," said Wax. "If you blow on it really hard with compressed air, everything is going to move in the direction of the air a little bit."

Wax also showed that he could calculate cellular stiffness by measuring the amount of that shift. This discovery had many advantages over traditional methods of measuring the rigidity of a single cell. For example, no physical contact with the cell was required and measurements took much less time.

"Traditional approaches like atomic force microscopy take all day just to prepare a single sample," said Will Eldridge, a PhD student in Wax's lab and first author of the paper. "Using a moving liquid to measure shear flow only takes 30-40 minutes to image a group of cells."

Still not satisfied with that timetable, Wax and Eldridge tried to find a visual metric that could do the same job in less time. In the new paper, they show that the amount of disorder found within a cell's internal structures directly correlates to its stiffness.

To measure cellular disorder, the researchers shine a laser through a cell and compare it to a second, unobstructed beam. The differences in the amount of time it takes for the two lasers to travel through the sample are then analyzed to produce a picture, revealing just how disordered the cell's internal structures are.

To prove their idea worked, the group measured these "phase disorders" in five different types of live cancer cells just before measuring their stiffness using the already proven "Jell-O mold" technique. As hoped, the two metrics were highly correlated.

"The speed of this technique is only limited by the size of your camera's field of view," said Eldridge. "You could potentially measure hundreds of individual cells in a matter of seconds."

More work is needed to determine the exact relationship between the two measurements, but Wax is hopeful that the technique could be translated into a new biomedical device for cancer screening.

"It's widely known that cellular stiffness is an indicator of cancer, but there's no viable diagnostic tool that can use that knowledge on a cellular scale," said Wax. "With this technique, I can see a path to creating a high-throughput system that could quickly and easily screen for cervical, esophageal or colon cancer -- anywhere you could take a tissue scraping."

###

This work was supported by the National Science Foundation (CBET 1604562).

CITATION: "Optical phase measurements of disorder strength link microstructure to cell stiffness," W.J. Eldridge, Z.A. Steelman, B. Loomis, A. Wax. Biophysical Journal, Feb. 28, 2017. DOI: 10.1016/j.bpj.2016.12.016

Media Contact

Ken Kingery
ken.kingery@duke.edu
919-660-8414

 @DukeU

http://www.duke.edu 

Ken Kingery | EurekAlert!

More articles from Health and Medicine:

nachricht How cancer metastasis happens: Researchers reveal a key mechanism
19.01.2018 | Weill Cornell Medicine

nachricht Researchers identify new way to unmask melanoma cells to the immune system
17.01.2018 | Duke University Medical Center

All articles from Health and Medicine >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Artificial agent designs quantum experiments

On the way to an intelligent laboratory, physicists from Innsbruck and Vienna present an artificial agent that autonomously designs quantum experiments. In initial experiments, the system has independently (re)discovered experimental techniques that are nowadays standard in modern quantum optical laboratories. This shows how machines could play a more creative role in research in the future.

We carry smartphones in our pockets, the streets are dotted with semi-autonomous cars, but in the research laboratory experiments are still being designed by...

Im Focus: Scientists decipher key principle behind reaction of metalloenzymes

So-called pre-distorted states accelerate photochemical reactions too

What enables electrons to be transferred swiftly, for example during photosynthesis? An interdisciplinary team of researchers has worked out the details of how...

Im Focus: The first precise measurement of a single molecule's effective charge

For the first time, scientists have precisely measured the effective electrical charge of a single molecule in solution. This fundamental insight of an SNSF Professor could also pave the way for future medical diagnostics.

Electrical charge is one of the key properties that allows molecules to interact. Life itself depends on this phenomenon: many biological processes involve...

Im Focus: Paradigm shift in Paris: Encouraging an holistic view of laser machining

At the JEC World Composite Show in Paris in March 2018, the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT will be focusing on the latest trends and innovations in laser machining of composites. Among other things, researchers at the booth shared with the Aachen Center for Integrative Lightweight Production (AZL) will demonstrate how lasers can be used for joining, structuring, cutting and drilling composite materials.

No other industry has attracted as much public attention to composite materials as the automotive industry, which along with the aerospace industry is a driver...

Im Focus: Room-temperature multiferroic thin films and their properties

Scientists at Tokyo Institute of Technology (Tokyo Tech) and Tohoku University have developed high-quality GFO epitaxial films and systematically investigated their ferroelectric and ferromagnetic properties. They also demonstrated the room-temperature magnetocapacitance effects of these GFO thin films.

Multiferroic materials show magnetically driven ferroelectricity. They are attracting increasing attention because of their fascinating properties such as...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

10th International Symposium: “Advanced Battery Power – Kraftwerk Batterie” Münster, 10-11 April 2018

08.01.2018 | Event News

See, understand and experience the work of the future

11.12.2017 | Event News

Innovative strategies to tackle parasitic worms

08.12.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Let the good tubes roll

19.01.2018 | Materials Sciences

How cancer metastasis happens: Researchers reveal a key mechanism

19.01.2018 | Health and Medicine

Meteoritic stardust unlocks timing of supernova dust formation

19.01.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>