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Cancer is often diagnosed by examining a tissue and noting that the architecture of the cells and the extracellular matrix is abnormal. Individual cells seem to have lost their regular shape and become more squishy. Just how squishy an individual cancer cell may be is what Robert Ros’s team is measuring.
Below, Robert Ros and his team used an atomic force microscope to probe the elasticity of both cancer cells and normal cells. The cells displayed marked differences.
(A, B) Metastatic cancerous breast cell and (MDA-MB-231) (C, D) non-tumorigenic breast cell (MCF-10A), stained for plasma membrane (A, C) and DNA and RNA (B, D). The cells were indented with the AFM tip at the X's. Force-distance curves are superimposed beside the X's. Because the cancer cells were more variable, and displayed more sawtooth features, the superimposed curves for these cells are noticeably fanned out relative to the more uniform responses of the non-tumorigenic cells.
More Information on Dr. Robert Ros: http://biophysics.asu.edu/CBP/person.php?ID=329