Watching Cells Do Their Work

Technique that lets scientists see 'inside' could shed light on tumor growth

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TUESDAY, Jan. 27, 2004 (HealthDayNews) -- A new technique that lets scientists watch protein activity in living cells may lead to a better understanding of how tumors spread.

The technique was developed by researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. This study, which focused on a protein that may be linked to the spread of cancerous cells, showed the technique works and also revealed new details about the protein's activity.

The protein studied, neuronal Wiskott-Aldrich syndrome protein (N-WASP), is found in every cell in the body and is involved in many cellular processes. It's believed that one of its key roles is to guide cellular growth and movement within the body, including when tumor cells spread from one organ to another.

"To our knowledge, this is the first probe of its kind that allows us to actually see in a living system where, when and how proteins are activated," first author Michael E. Ward, a graduate student in anatomy and neurobiology, says in a prepared statement.

"This is significant progress in moving from examining the biochemistry of ground-up cells to being able to study it in an intact cell," Ward says.

The study is featured on the cover of this week's issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

More information

Here's where you can learn more about cells.

SOURCE: Washington University School of Medicine, news release, Jan. 27, 2004


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