One physiological consequence of the spread of cancer and other diseases in the body is that the structure of the surrounding cells hardens,media reported. In response, scientists from Purdue University have now developed a new way to detect these changes through sound waves, which in turn provides a potential new tool for tracking the development of this type of disease.
The hardness of the extracellular matrix that surrounds cells can change due to toxic substances, drugs and diseases, and scientists hope to track small changes in the structure to monitor patient health and disease transmission. Detection sits possible include the use of chemicals in extracellular matrix samples or by stretching or compressing extracellular substrates, but these practices have proved difficult not to cause damage to extracellular matrixes.
In response, Purdue University scientists believe they have found a way to solve the problem by using a small “lab-on-a-chip” device. The device consists of a transmitter that produces ultrasonic waves and a piezoelectric receiver. The electrical signal segeneration generated by the receiver is determined by the stiffness of the sample, so it can reveal the structural changes that occur in this.
Rahim Rahimi, an assistant professor of materials engineering at Purdue University, says this is the same concept as checking the wings of an airplane, and that the way waves spread can indicate whether there is damage or defect without affecting the material itself.
In the experiment, the team used hydrogels containing breast cancer cells and chose them because they were similar to the consistency of extracellular substrates.
According to the team, the device can be magnified and used to analyze multiple samples at the same time, which will allow scientists to study different aspects of the disease. Now they have begun testing collagen-based extracellular matrix, a key structural protein in the skin and other tissues.
The study was published in Lab on a Chip.