CT scans are widely-used to help diagnose cancer by detecting tumours after several thousand cells have formed. New research from a team from the Yorkshire Cancer Research Laboratory at York University may have found a way to detect as few as 100 or less cancer cells in a tumour. And it involves jellyfish.
"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," Professor Norman Maitland told the BBC. "What we have developed is a process which involves inserting proteins derived from luminous jellyfish cells into human cancer cells. Then, when we illuminate the tissue, a special camera detects these proteins as they light up, indicating where the tumours are."
According to AOL, Maitland claims his work is actually building on earlier research by American chemists Roger Tsien with the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Osamu Shimomura with Boston University Medical School, and Martin Chalfie with Columbia University, who together won a Nobel Prize in 2008, in part for Shimomura's work in taking luminous cells from the crystal jellyfish and then isolating the luminescent GFP protein from those cells.
The new technique, using jellyfish cells, would allow scientists to penetrate deeply into bone and tissue. According to Top News, this new process will allow for the early diagnosis of such diseases as microscopic bone cancer.
There's only one catch. The specialized cameras required to perform this task are quite costly. Maitland is currently trying to raise money to purchase these cameras, and hopes to have his new method of cancer detection ready for clinical trials in five years.
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