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CAMP June Newsletter: Page 3

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CAMP Professor Sokolov’s Team Discovers Unknown Features of Cancer Cells


Figure 2.  Visualization of cell brushes. (a) Side view of Scanning Electron Microscope images for cancerous and normal cells.  Scale bars are 5 µm. 

(b) Confocal Microscope images of the cells showing the brushes associated with membrane corrugations. 3D cross-sections of the cells are also shown. The arrows indicate a vertical direction pointing out of the culture dish. The scale bars are 5 µm. (c) Transmission Electron Microscope images of thin cross-sections of the cell edges. Scale bars are 2 µm.

CAMP Professor Igor Sokolov and his team have developed a novel method to characterize epithelial cells by using an Atomic Force Microscope. They used this method to study both normal and cancerous human cervical cells. As a result, the researchers identified an important difference in the surface properties of normal and cancer cells. See Figure 2. They discovered that normal cells have "brushes" (corrugations of the cell membrane, mostly microvilli and microridges) of one length on their surface, while cancer cells have two different brush lengths, with densities unlike those of normal cells.  These results, which were recently published in the scientific journal Nature Nanotechnology, may provide a simple and precise way to detect cervical cancer.  

So far, humans have not been able to conquer cancer. Conventional approaches need to be improved. There is hope that the physical sciences can provide the desperately needed new ways (which may fall outside of the traditional channels) to fight and prevent cancer. The novel findings of Professor Sokolov’s group (from a non traditional biochemical study of cancer) may be the much awaited novel breakthrough for cancer detection, and consequent treatment.


Professor Igor Sokolov’s team for this study included graduate students Ravi M. Gaikwad, Yaroslav Kievsky, and Venkatesh Sobba-Rao, and postdoctoral fellow in physics, Swaminathan Iyer.  The work was carried out in collaboration with Clarkson’s biology Professor Craig Woodworth. Sokolov's current group consists of five graduate students and two postdoctoral fellows. Sokolov is a professor of physics, a professor of chemical and biomolecular science, and director of Clarkson’s Nanoengineering and Biotechnology Laboratories Center (NABLAB).

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