View Full Version : Virginia Tech Scientists Watch Brain Tumor Cells Respond to Treatment in Real Time

04-13-2015, 11:22 AM
Molly Greenberg - Senior Writer, Higher Ed Beat


The future is now, at least for Virginia Tech scientists who have come up with a way to visualize potential brain cancer treatments in real time.

In a study led by Deborah Kelly and Zhi Sheng, both assistant professors at the Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute, the duo used nanotechnology to watch tumor stem cells respond to therapy through new imaging techniques. The result ended up being an incredible scientific discovery.

“We’ve never been able to directly observe the actions of potential cancer treatments this way before,” said Sheng in a statement. “It was astounding. In all my years of researching glioblastoma, I had seen only static images.”

Kelly and Sheng didn't work alone. The two claim that it was a fourth-year Virginia Tech School of Medicine student, Elliot Pohlmann, who instigated a collaboration between their two labs.

“We realized that glioblastoma stem cells could work very well with the imaging techniques Dr. Kelly was developing,” Pohlmann said in a statement. “With a little trial and error, we’ve produced visually striking images.”

According to Sheng, glioblastoma tumors are "hard to target." They're also "aggressive and resistance to therapeutics," Sheng noted. "With our imaging techniques, we may be able to gain new insights into how the cells dynamically respond to treatements."

As for how the process is done, the research team separates the "hard-to-kill" stem cells from the rest of the glioblastoma population and attracts them to microchip covered in antibodies. Using a microfluidic chamber, the scientists then trap the cells in liquid.

Once in place, the cells are blasted with gold nanorods. It's then that the researchers are able to track the process in cell cultures by using in situ transmission electron microscopy.

There are many potential applications for this new technology. Among them is the ability to "observe an influenza virus, HIV, or other human pathogens infecting a cell, or even test new cancer treatments at the cellular level,” according to Kelly.