A growing tumour triggers a suite of changes, both within individual cells and on a broader scale, such as an enhanced network of blood vessels. New imaging techniques mean researchers can track these events, studying their connections and importance to the tumour’s growth. For example, probing cancerous tissue with specific wavelengths of light enabled scientists to observe a developing tumour, without genetic manipulation or fluorescent dyes. The first crucial change they noticed was an increased production of vesicles (pictured as tiny blue dots), microscopic spheres of cytoplasm that act as messengers between cells. Vesicles may carry signals that direct subsequent changes in cancerous tissue, or facilitate the spread of malignant cells. Their discovery also has implications for diagnosis: seeing more vesicles could serve as an early warning of cancer, while identifying the provenance of vesicles in blood samples from patients could help determine where cancers are spreading from.
Written by Emmanuelle Briolat
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