Extracellular vesicles – packaged secretions from cells – can be identified by microscopy and are characteristic in breast cancer
A growing area of interest in cancer research is the role of extracellular vesicles (EVs), tiny cytoplasm packets surrounded by cell membrane, which cells secrete into the extracellular environment. Several studies implicate them in tumour growth and spread, or metastasis, so methods have been developed to tag and track these microscopic structures. Yet labelling vesicles to observe them has disadvantages, including limitations to viewing in three-dimensional tissues and unforeseen effects of adding tags. Avoiding these issues, scientists recently managed to identify EVs in live cells and tissues without any labelling, by combining several microscopy techniques at once, picking up on the EVs’ contents and internal structures. With this method, they found that EVs rich in NAD(P)H, a molecule essential for many chemical reactions, were especially abundant in mammary tumour tissue in rats (pictured, with EVs shown as tiny blue dots) and in humans, suggesting potential applications as a diagnostic tool.
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