Fractals can catch cancer

Analyzing shapes of cell borders may prove useful in diagnosis

By Sam Lemonick, 15:28 PM October 4, 2013

The geometric patterns known as fractals make for pretty pictures; one day they might help doctors diagnose cancers faster and more accurately.

Looking for a better alternative to the staining methods traditionally used on biopsied cells, Joachim Spatz and colleagues at the University of Heidelberg in Germany focused on patterns at the edges of pancreatic cancer cells. The group reported September 30 in Nano Letters that quantifying “fractalness” along individual cell borders allowed the resea...

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