Imaging helps researchers uncover new information about cancer cells

A team from the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research in Parkville, Victoria, Australia, has used single cell imaging and color-changing sensors to uncover new information about how the cell cycles of cancer cells are disrupted, according to a study published in Cell Cycle. These findings, the authors wrote, could change the way scientists view cancer cells and help improve cancer treatments such as chemotherapy.

“This study demonstrates the power of imaging to directly reveal cellular behaviors, and in some cases challenge assumptions that were made before it was possible to obtain such clear evidence,” Lachlan Whitehead, PhD, of the Institute’s Center for Dynamic Imaging, said in a prepared statement.

It was previously believed that the second phase of the cell cycle, when cells actually split in half, takes a fixed amount of time. However, the team’s research uncovered that variation can occur in the second phase of the cell cycle. This is so vital, the team explained, because excessive growth is what leads to cancer cells.

Using single cell imaging and fluorescent, color-changing sensors, the researchers were able to track each phase of the cell cycle as it occurred. Their findings revealed the variation, which could have a huge affect on future research by improving models used to predict cell growth.

“Accurate mathematical models of how cancer cells replicate help us predict how cancers respond to chemotherapy treatment, and how they evolve to become drug resistant,” Phil Hodgkin, PhD, who worked on the research, said in the statement.