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Biomechanics of ovarian cells




Using ovarian surface epithelial cells from mice, scientists from Virginia Tech have released findings from a study that they believe will help in cancer risk evaluation, cancer diagnosis, and therapy efficiency in a technical journal: Nanomedicine http://www.nanomedjournal.com/article/S1549-9634%2811%2900184-5/abstract.

By studying the viscoelastic properties of the ovarian cells of mice, they were able to identify differences between early stages of ovary cancer and more advanced and aggressive phenotypes.



Biomechanics of ovarian cells
Masoud Agah directs Virginia Tech's Microelectromechanical Systems Laboratory or VT MEMS Lab. The lab resides within the Bradley Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering and is affiliated with the Department of Mechanical Engineering and the MicrON Research Group. Some of its recent work includes: the development of micro gas analyzers for environmental and health-care applications, and biochips for cancer diagnosis and cancer treatment monitoring.

Credit: Virginia Tech Photo


Their studies showed a mouse's ovarian cells are stiffer and more viscous when they are benign. Increases in cell deformation "directly correlates with the progression from a non-tumor non-malignant cell to a cancerous one that can produce tumors and metastases in mice," said Masoud Agah, director of Virginia Tech's Microelectromechanical Systems (MEMS) Laboratory http://www.ece.vt.edu/mems/ and the lead investigator on the study.

Their findings are consistent with a University of California at Los Angeles study that reported lung, breast, and pancreatic metastatic cells are 70 percent softer than non-malignant cells. http://www.nature.com/nnano/journal/v2/n12/full/nnano.2007.388.html.

The findings also support Agah group's prior reports on elastic properties of breast cell lines. The digital object identifiers to find the studies on the web are: doi:10.1016/j.biomaterials.2010.05.023.

doi:10.1016/j.biomaterials.2010.02.034.

Agah worked with Eva Schmelz of Virginia Tech's Department of Human Nutrition, Foods, and Exercise http://www.hnfe.vt.edu/about_us/Bios_faculty/bio_schmelz_eva.html, Chris Roberts of the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine http://www.vetmed.vt.edu/org/dbsp/faculty/roberts.asp,.

and Alperen N. Ketene, a graduate student in mechanical engineering http://www.me.vt.edu/, on this work supported by the National Science Foundation and Virginia Tech's Institute for Critical Technology and Applied Science. http://www.ictas.vt.edu/.

They are among many scientists attempting to decipher the association of molecular and mechanical events that lead to cancer and its progression. As they are successful, physicians will be able to make better diagnostic and therapy decisions based not only on an individual's genetic fingerprint but also a biomechanical signature.

However, since cancer has multiple causes, various levels of severity, and a wide range of individual responses to the same therapys, the research on cancer progression has been challenging.

A turning point to the research has come with recent advances in nanotechnology, combined with engineering and medicine. Agah and colleagues now have the critical ability to study the elastic or stretching ability of cells as well as their ability to stick to other cells. These studies on the biomechanics of the cell, associated with a cell's structure "are crucial for the development of disease-treating drugs and detection methods," Agah said.

Using an atomic force microscope (AFM), a relatively new invention by research standards, they are able to characterize cell structure to nanoscale precision. The microscope analyzes live cultured cells and it is able to detect key biomechanical differences between non-transformed and malignant cells.

From these studies, malignant cells appear softer or deform at a higher rate than their healthier, non-transformed counterparts, Agah said. In addition, their fluidity increases.

The Virginia Tech scientists selected to study ovary cancer because it is one of the most lethal types in women and is normally diagnosed late in older patients when the disease has already progressed and metastasized.

Agah reported that no prior information existed about the biomechanical properties of both cancerous and non-malignant human ovarian cells, and how they change over time.

However, the mouse studies conducted by this interdisciplinary group of scientists at Virginia Tech have now shown how a cell, as it undergoes transformation towards malignancy, changes its size, loses its innate design of a tightly organized structure, and instead acquires the capacity to grow independently and form tumors.

"We have characterized the cells as per their phenotype into early-benign, intermediate, and late-aggressive stages of cancer that corresponded with their biomechanical properties," Agah reported.

"The mouse ovary cancer model represents a valid and novel alternative to studying human cell lines and provides important information on the progressive stages of the ovary cancer," Schmelz and Roberts commented.

"Cell viscosity is an important characteristic of a material because all materials exhibit some form of time-dependent strain," Agah said. This trait is an "imperative" part of any analysis of biological cells.

Their findings confirm that the cytoskeleton affects the biomechanical properties of cells. Changes in these properties can be correlation to the motility of cancer cells and potentially their ability to invade other cells.

"When cells undergo changes in their viscoelastic properties, they are increasingly able to deform, squeeze, and migrate through size-limiting pores of tissue or vasculature onto other parts of the body," Agah said.


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Did you know?
Using ovarian surface epithelial cells from mice, scientists from Virginia Tech have released findings from a study that they believe will help in cancer risk evaluation, cancer diagnosis, and therapy efficiency in a technical journal: Nanomedicine http://www.nanomedjournal.com/article/S1549-9634%2811%2900184-5/abstract.

Medicineworld.org: Biomechanics of ovarian cells

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