ANCHOR LEAD: HOW CELLS BREAK FREE UNDERPINS CANCER METASTASIS, ELIZABETH TRACEY REPORTS
How do cancer cells break free of their adjacent cells and form tumors elsewhere in the body? Light is being shed on this process by Peter Searson and colleagues at Johns Hopkins, who have developed a novel ‘lab on a chip’ technology to study how cells detach.
SEARSON: We used microfabrication techniques to pattern glass surfaces. We produce thin gold stripes. On these gold stripes we attach a molecule that ends up being like a tether. If you imagine then tethering a balloon to the surface we can then come in and the balloon is released. What we’re doing here is we’re attaching a molecule to the surface, the molecule promotes cell adhesion. Later we can cut the string or release these molecules from the surface with a small electrical pulse. :30
Searson says the actual process of detaching from a glass surface or within the body requires several steps, which presumably could be interfered with to slow or eliminate detachment and subsequent spread of cancerous cells. At Johns Hopkins, I’m Elizabeth Tracey.