A collaborative group of researchers is probing the mechanics of tumor cells with atomic force microscopy and exploring the technique as a diagnostic tool. Among the research participants is Subra Muralidharan, a molecular bioscientist at Washington State University Pullman.
Chemical & Engineering News, in its May 23 digital issue, had a feature on the research titled “Using the Force on Cancer.” The article notes that life from a cancer cell’s perspective is a rough-and-tumble existence. “First, there’s all that exhausting, uncontrolled dividing. Then, there’s the peer pressure created by a cell’s rapidly multiplying neighbors. Not to mention being squished by the abundant fluid that accumulates as inflammation spreads in the surrounding tissue. As if those hassles weren’t enough, in order to travel to other parts of the body a process known as metastasis cancer cells have to squeeze themselves through hardened tissue and crevices in the walls of blood vessels to access the bloodstream.
Traditionally, atomic force microscopy (AFM) has been used by physicists and chemists. And it is these scientists who are now debating the best protocols for collecting meaningful nanomechanical data on the deadly disease and successfully transitioning AFM to the clinic.
“Cancer is traditionally viewed as a genetic disease, and studied in terms of gene mutations and chromosome abnormalities,” Muralidharan told C&E News. But it’s now clear that cancer is more than just genetics, he says, explaining that no single factor seems to cause tumor formation. Cancer is far from being conquered, so it is time to take another tack and “think about how physical stress is transduced to biochemical pathways,” he said.