Cancer cells are softer than healthy cells, according to mechanical measurements published online in Nature Nanotechnology. The results suggest that this mechanical signature may be a powerful way to detect cancer in the clinic and could also have applications in personalized medication.
James Gimzewski and colleagues show that cancer cells taken from the body fluid of patients with suspected lung, breast and pancreas cancer are more than 70% softer than benign cells. Even though the patients had very different clinical histories, the different types of cancer cells showed similar values of stiffness, so the healthy and diseased states could be clearly identified. Moreover, normal cells that looked like cancerous cells could be distinguished with this technique.
'This nanomechanical approach provides a potentially powerful means for detecting cancer along with the other ancillary biomarkers currently used for diagnosis' says Subra Suresh in an accompanying News and Views article. However, before the new approach can be used in the clinic, further tests are needed to explore, among other things, the influence of other existing diseases on the mechanical properties of normal and cancerous cells.
James Gimzewski (University of California, Los Angeles, CA, USA)
Abstract available online.
(C) Nature Nanotechnology press release.
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