Jellyfish glow helps spot cancerous tumours

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

LONDON - Scientists have found a way of using luminous cells from jellyfish to spot tumours deep within the human body.

Professor Norman Maitland, of the Yorkshire Cancer Research Laboratory at York University, Britain, has used a harmless virus to carry the protein to the tumour.

He believes the technology could be at least 10 times better than CT scanners at detecting tumours. CT scanners can only detect tumours after several thousand cells have formed.

But the new technique, which is still in the early stages of development, can spot bundles of fewer than 100 cancerous cells, reports the Daily Mail.

“Cancers deep within the body are difficult to spot at an early stage and early diagnosis is critical for the successful treatment of any form of cancer”, Prof. Maitland said.

“What we have developed is a process which involves inserting proteins derived from luminous jellyfish cells into a lump of human cancer cells. Then, when we illuminate the tissue, a special camera detects these proteins as they light up, indicating where the tumours are,” he said.

American chemist Roger Tsien won the Nobel Prize for chemistry two years ago for purifying the protein behind the jellyfish’s glow.

“When we heard about Dr Tsien’s work, we realised how that advance might be useful in the diagnosis of cancer,” said Prof. Maitland.

“X-Rays, for example, struggle to penetrate well deeply into tissues and bone, so diagnosing dangerous microscopic bone cancer is difficult. Our process should allow earlier diagnosis to take place.”

“When a specially developed camera is switched on, the proteins just flare up and you can see where the cancer cells are. We call the process ‘Virimaging’,” he said.

Filed under: Cancer, Medicine, World

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