The new ‘apoptosis chip’ opens up new possibilities in the diagnosis and treatment of cancer. Just a limited number of cells is required for the analysis, without the need of an operative biopsy. An individual cell can now be monitored when medication is added. Cell culture of millions of cells, with risk of cellular modification, is not necessary using this new method. The chip itself can be made of a relatively cheap and disposable material and meets the high standards of medical use.
Floor Wolbers has done on-chip research of the process called apoptosis, both of healthy cells and breast cancer cells. The major difference is the occurance of ‘anoikis’: dying cells leaving their colony when they die. Cancer cells may release themselves but this doesn’t lead to their death: they metastase elsewhere.
This difference between healthy cells and cancer cells can clearly be seen in the on-chip experiments. Healthy endothelium cells, in the presence of TNF-alpha, show the characteristics of apoptosis and then start to release themselves, dying in the end. Breast cancer cells under the influence of the same substance start showing apoptosis but when they do move away, they don’t necessarily die: there is no anoikis. This is particularly the case for breast cancer cells treated with tamoxifen, which is a common hormone treatment. This clearly shows the specific nature of treatment and dose, and on-chip monitoring will enable a fast comparison of different cell types and cytostatics.
The new technique can already be applied in a clinical setting. At present, the process is monitored using an optical microscope, for high-throughput screening, electronics can be added to the chip. Using multiple chambers for cell culture, fast comparison will be possible.
Floor Wolbers, who defends her PhD-thesis ‘Apoptosis chip for drug screening’ on the 8th of June, 2007, has closely cooperated with the hospital Medisch Spectrum Twente in Enschede, with the gynaecologist dr. H.R. Franke and the clinical chemistry lab of prof.dr. I. Vermes.
Wiebe van der Veen | alfa
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Our brains house extremely complex neuronal circuits, whose detailed structures are still largely unknown. This is especially true for the so-called cerebral cortex of mammals, where among other things vision, thoughts or spatial orientation are being computed. Here the rules by which nerve cells are connected to each other are only partly understood. A team of scientists around Moritz Helmstaedter at the Frankfiurt Max Planck Institute for Brain Research and Helene Schmidt (Humboldt University in Berlin) have now discovered a surprisingly precise nerve cell connectivity pattern in the part of the cerebral cortex that is responsible for orienting the individual animal or human in space.
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Using ultrafast flashes of laser and x-ray radiation, scientists at the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics (Garching, Germany) took snapshots of the briefest electron motion inside a solid material to date. The electron motion lasted only 750 billionths of the billionth of a second before it fainted, setting a new record of human capability to capture ultrafast processes inside solids!
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For the first time, physicists have successfully imaged spiral magnetic ordering in a multiferroic material. These materials are considered highly promising candidates for future data storage media. The researchers were able to prove their findings using unique quantum sensors that were developed at Basel University and that can analyze electromagnetic fields on the nanometer scale. The results – obtained by scientists from the University of Basel’s Department of Physics, the Swiss Nanoscience Institute, the University of Montpellier and several laboratories from University Paris-Saclay – were recently published in the journal Nature.
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