Studying Cancer in 3Dadmin
The best way to fully understand any living thing, from an amobea to a human adult, is to study how they act in their natural environment. This is especially true of cancer cells, which, until recently researchers were only able to study on flat glass slides.
“There is clear evidence that the environment strongly affects cellular behavior – thus, the value of cell culture experiments on glass must at least be questioned,” Reto Fiolka, an optical scientist at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center said in an article on AAAS’s EurekAlert!.
Fiolka is part of a team that recently developed a new high-resolution microscope that “makes it possible to visualize cancer cells in 3D and record how they are signalling to other parts of their environment, revealing previously unappreciated biology of how cancer cells survive and disperse within living things,” according to the same article.
“Our microscope is one tool that may bring us a deeper understanding of the molecular mechanisms that drive cancer cell behavior, since it enables high-resolution imaging in more realistic tumor environments,” Fiolka said.
The team’s study, published in Developmental Cell, describes how they used their microscope to image different kinds of skin cancer cells from patients, and notes the differences between cell images examined on glass slides versus the 3D environment created by their microscope.
According to Medical Daily, the team’s next task will be to design a software that’s advanced enough to analyze the images produced by the microscope, as they are currently too complex to interpret with the human eye.
“When we conceived of this project, we first asked what we wanted to measure and then designed a microscope and analytical platform to acheive this goal,” said cell biologist and study co-first author Erik Welf. “We hope that now instead of asking what we can measure, scientists will ask what we must measure in order to make meaningful contributions to cancer cell biology.”