Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Do These World-First Images Hold Key to Cancer Cure?


A BREAKTHROUGH in imaging techniques could enable scientists to watch the moment that cancer first strikes, holding out the prospect of radical new treatments.

In a world first, researchers at Dundee University managed to film healthy, live cells within an embryo dividing and redividing after developing a new way of using a powerful microscope.

The film shows the birth of neurons - which form the brain and nervous system - as cells in a chicken's egg divide into two, a nerve cell and a "mother cell" that goes on to divide again.

This is the first time this stem cell pattern of division has been witnessed in real time. Stem cells can form any kind of cell in the body and it is thought that cancers may occur when those in body tissue make some kind of "mistake".

The team now plans to artificially induce a cell to become cancerous so they can watch what happens inside when a cancer is born.

This process is poorly understood at present and actually seeing what occurs could lead to a way of preventing it. In almost all cancers, stopping them from spreading renders them relatively harmless.

Cancer specialists described the film as excellent work. One expert expressed the hope that a film of a healthy cell turning into a cancerous one could shed light on the "critical thing" - the trigger for the disease in a cell.

One of the lead researchers, Dr Jason Swedlow, of Dundee University's College of Life Sciences, said watching the film of nerve cell division for the first time was a "eureka moment".

"We called the first really good film, Totally Rocking Movie'. It's one of those amazing moments - you get those once every ten years or so. It's an amazing thing to be able to watch this process," he said.

Abridged >>

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