Platelets are small cells that work in the blood to prevent bleeding from damaged blood vessels. They can also play a role in the growth of cancers by forming a shield around tumour cells protecting them from destruction by the immune system. Pictured are individual platelets examined by electron cryotomography. In those from healthy women (top row) the microtubule system (structures that maintain platelet shape) is seen intact in blue, enclosing the granules (pink and green) that contain the platelet’s active ingredients. Of similar appearance are platelets from patients with a benign ovarian lump (middle row). But those from ovarian cancer patients (bottom row) have a disrupted microtubule system and more energy-providing mitochondria (red), and can be stimulated more easily than normal platelets – possibly a result of the structural differences. Platelet structure, revealed by electron cryotomography, could be used to help detect ovarian cancer and possibly other diseases.
Written by Katie Panteli
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