Microchip with cancer cell

New method for studying cancer cells

Tuesday 05 Apr 16
by Anne Hansen Fysik


Kirstine Berg-Sørensen
Associate Professor
DTU Health Tech
+45 22 27 58 68

Cancer cell growth and proliferation are closely related to the mechanical properties of the cells. Researchers from DTU, Pavia University, and CNR Milano have developed a method for studying two aspects of cancer cell elasticity simultaneously, and have demonstrated that the changes in the two properties do not always go hand in hand. It opens up new possibilities for improved diagnosis and treatment of cancer.

More and more research results indicate that the mechanical strength and elasticity of cancer cells differ from that of similar healthy cells. It also seems that cancer cell elasticity varies with the risk of them spreading to other parts of the body. This means that you can gain important knowledge about the disease prognosis by studying the cells’ mechanical properties.

In an article recently published in the international journal Scientific Reports, Associate Professor Kirstine Berg Sørensen, DTU Physics, and colleagues from Milan and Pavia in Italy show that two targets for the elastic properties of cancer cells—tension and stress, respectively—not necessarily go hand in hand in the same cell.

New measuring method combines light and sound
Measuring cell deformability by means of laser light is a proven method.

“The new finding in our research is that we have managed to combine measurement methods with laser light and sound waves, respectively, on the same cell,” explains Associate Professor Kirstine Berg Sørensen, DTU Physics. She continues:

“The more properties you can examine in the same cell, the more precise knowledge can be obtained about the cancer cells’ potential for growth and proliferation. Therefore, the new method is an important tool in improving diagnostic methods.

In order to be able to measure the cells’ optical (light) and acoustic (sound) deformability simultaneously, the researchers have developed a microchip, where a single cell is first held in place and subsequently stretched by means of a laser beam and subsequently compressed by sound waves.

Read the article in Scientific Reports

See a 
cell stretch by means of laser light.