Most cancer research in the lab involves studying cells and tissues taken from patients or animals. But as technology improves, scientists are turning to computer-generated cancer cells to figure out how tumours grow and spread. All the little balls in this picture are individual 'virtual' cells, created by a computer programme. By tweaking the programme to mimic different situations found in real life, such as a wound healing (first column on the left) or changes to the physical properties around the cells, researchers can alter how the cells 'grow'. Certain conditions cause the cells to grow out of control – as might be seen as a tumour develops (third column from the left). But other conditions can make rogue cells go back to normal, as seen in the column on the right. Models like this help to inform scientists working in the lab, suggesting new approaches to tackle the disease.
Written by Kat Arney
BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC London Institute of Medical Sciences the website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biomedicine. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.
BPoD is also available in Catalan at www.bpod.cat with translations by the University of Valencia.