Tight spaces cause spreading cancer cells to divide improperly | Science News

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Tight spaces cause spreading cancer cells to divide improperly

Nanotubes mimic capillaries to study mitosis, metastasis

8:00am, June 27, 2016
cancer nanotubes

SQUEEZE PLAY  When trapped inside tight tubes, cancer cells divide unevenly. But as their membranes bulge (shown with yellow arrows), the cell division gets a little less distorted.   

Scientists have found a new way to study how cancer cells divide and thrive in difficult-to-reach crannies of the body.

Transparent artificial membranes — just nanometers thick — can be rolled into tubes to mimic capillaries that host spreading cancer cells, researchers report in the June ACS Nano. Cells squished inside such tubes didn’t organize their internal components the way they normally do before splitting. As a result, the cells divided unevenly, potentially introducing new mutations.

Inside the body, cancer cells fight for space. Sometimes they’ll spread, or metastasize, to other organs via tight blood vessels. Although cancer cells are more likely to kill once they spread, scientists still don’t understand how the abnormal cells divide inside such tiny tubes. These cells are difficult to study in the body because they’re tucked away in hard-to-reach

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