Researchers at the California Institute of Technology have devised a new way to fight cancer with ultrasound. The technique uses low-intensity ultrasonic pulses and has shown the role of selectively killing cancer cells without damaging normal cells. Scientists say high-intensity ultrasound explosions heat tissue and kill cancer cells in the target area.
The new study uses low-intensity pulsed ultrasound (LIPUS) to create more selective treatments. Although this work is still in its early stages and has not yet been tested in live animals or humans, the results are encouraging. Scientists are studying whether cell size, cell wall thickness, and intracellular organelle size affect the vibration of cells when sound waves are bombarded, and how such vibrations cause cancer cells to die.
The researchers began building mathematical models to see how different cells responded to different frequencies and sound pulses. The team found a gap in the rate of resonant growth of cancer cells with healthy cells. This means that, in theory, carefully tuned sound waves can cause the cell membranes of cancer cells to vibrate to the point where they rupture without damaging healthy cells.
So far, Caltech hopes the Biomedical Research Center has built two ultrasound instruments, one of which has been built. The team is taking samples from humans and mice, including colon and breast cancer. They also tested a variety of healthy cells, including immune cells, to see how the treatment affected them.