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Photoacoustic spectroscopy could lead to more efficient diagnosis of melanoma

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Researchers from the University of Missouri (MO, USA) have developed a new technique that could potentially detect single melanoma cells with a greater accuracy, identifying melanoma cells that are more representative of the skin cancers developed by most patients.

The study published in Analyst, outlines the use of an emerging technique termed photoacoustic spectroscopy. This novel technique is able to probe cells non-invasively by measuring photoacoustic signals emitted as a result of absorbing a merged light source, at a range that is capable of identifying variations in melanoma cells.

Previously, it has been widely regarded that melanoma cells are fairly uniform in color and size, with ‘typical’ spectroscopic characteristics. However, in recent years it has become evident that this assumption does not hold true. In fact, the team observed that there was a broad distribution of both size and color in the melanoma cells studied.

“Researchers often seek out the types of cancerous cells that are homogenous in nature and are easier to observe with traditional microscopic devices,” Luis Polo-Parada (University of Missouri) commented. “Yet, because the vast amount of research is conducted on one type of cell, it often can lead to misdiagnosis in a clinical setting.”

This has meant that melanoma cells that do not fall under the ‘typical’ values regarding size and color have been misdiagnosed. The new technique developed is non-discriminate and is able to detect human melanoma, breast cancers and mouse melanoma cells accurately and efficiently.

“Overall, our studies show that by using modified techniques we will be able to observe non-uniform cancer cells, regardless of their origin,” Polo-Parada stated. “Additionally, as these melanoma cells divide and distribute themselves throughout the blood, they can cause melanomas to metastasize. We were able to observe those cancers as well. This method could help medical doctors and pathologists to detect cancers as they spread, becoming one of the tools in the fight against this fatal disease.”

Sources: Polo-Parada L, Gutiérrez-Juárez G, Cywiak D, Pérez-Solano R, Baker, GA. Spectrophotometric analysis at the single-cell level: elucidating dispersity within melanic immortalized cell populations. Analyst 142(9), 1482–1491 (2017); http://munews.missouri.edu/news-releases/2017/0504-fighting-cancer-new-microscopic-technique-could-help-detect-diagnose-metastatic-melanomas/

 

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