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Mumbai researchers find new technique to detect cancer

Scientists in the city have devised what could a quicker way to detect cancers and its stages without taking tissue samples from the body.

health and fitness Updated: Mar 15, 2016 11:43 IST
Snehal Rebello
Scientists in the city have devised what could a quicker way to detect cancers and its stages without taking tissue samples from the body.
Scientists in the city have devised what could a quicker way to detect cancers and its stages without taking tissue samples from the body.

Scientists in the city have devised what could a quicker way to detect cancers and its stages without taking tissue samples from the body.

The new technique, devised by UM-DAE Centre for Excellence in Basic Sciences (CBS), Kalina, and the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR), Navy Nagar, uses laser beams to detect tumour cells on the basis of the time they took to bond with one each other.

The team worked with cancerous cell lines of human and rat neural tumours grown in a laboratory.

While the average minimum time for adhesion of tumour cells was 20 to 25 seconds, going up to 45 seconds in some cases, two healthy cells take only five seconds to bond.

At present, cancers are diagnosed and classified after cell or tissue samples taken through fine needle aspiration or a surgical biopsy are studied under a microscope.

“But these diagnostic methods have either limited accuracy or are t i me consuming as the samples have to be labelled, stained and processed and involve an element of subjectivity, ” said Dr Uma Ladiwala, formerly of UM-DAE-CBS.

The recent study by a four-member team from CBS and TIFR used l i ght f rom a focused laser beam to trap a live tumour cell and bring it in close proximity to another cell.

“While normal cells adhere faster, those that are unhealthy are slow t o stick t ogether. Looking at the time cells take to adhere, we can see whether they are healthy or not,” said professor Dee pak Mathur, atomic and molecular science laboratory, TIFR.

When the team used a chemical – all-trans retinoic acid (ATRA) – which can differentiate a more malignant cancer cell to a less malignant one, and is being tried as a therapy for cancers – on the cancer cells, the adhesion time was back to 5 to 7 seconds.

The scientists said the optical trapping method can be used to classify the disease into various stages, which is important in treatment the disease.

“Optical trapping can be used as an alter native and objective diagnostic t echnique,” said Mathur.

“The study, which is at a very basic science level, needs to be taken forward and conducted on actual tumour cells from patients to prove its efficacy.”