Cancer is a devastating disease that affects lives in so many ways. But new technology is helping to improve the quality of life for patients, and reducing cancer death rates worldwide.
Researchers are constantly developing new technologies that can help diagnose, treat and even prevent cancer. This article discusses some of these important developments in the field.
Cryo-electron microscopy can help scientists study the molecular machinery of cells and tissues. It is particularly useful for mapping proteins at the atomic scale, and revealing how they interact.
It can also be used to understand the structures of large biomolecule complexes, like membrane-bound receptors and enzymes. These are important for understanding the way that cells work and how to develop drugs that target them.
But one big problem with cryo-EM is that it doesn’t yet have a high enough resolution to map proteins at atomic scales. So, until recently, researchers had to rely on X-ray crystallography to get these detailed images of proteins’ structures.
But in recent years, new hardware and software has led to significant improvements to the resolution of cryo-EM. Currently, structures can be reconstructed at a resolution of about 2 angstroms (1.2 x 10-10 m).
Exosomes are nanometer-sized lipid bilayer-enclosed vesicles secreted by various cell types, including immune cells and cancer cells. They exist in nearly all body fluids, such as blood, saliva, urine, bile, and pancreatic juice.
They are capable of carrying a wide variety of bioactive molecules from their donor cells, including proteins, mRNA, and microRNAs. The nature of these molecules varies from cell to cell, and they can promote or suppress disease progression.
They are a promising new way to deliver drugs and immunotherapeutic vaccines, as well as cell-specific biomarkers. They also have the potential to be used as liquid biopsies for non-invasive cancer detection. They have also been found to be effective in treating chronic infections and autoimmune diseases.
CRISPR is an extremely versatile technology that allows researchers to modify genes. It’s also a very powerful tool to use in cancer research, as it can pinpoint cancer-causing mutations and fix them in the DNA.
One of the biggest problems with CRISPR is that it can cause off-target effects, which may actually make cells more cancerous instead of fixing them. This is why scientists worry about using it to edit human genes — they need to be very precise in cutting the right spot.
As a result, they are trying to find ways to diminish the nuclease function of Cas nuclease so it doesn’t cut DNA that it shouldn’t. This is important because it could make the editing process easier, which would allow it to be used in more conditions.
The first trial to test this in humans was launched last year at the University of Pennsylvania, and it’s still going strong. It’s a clinical trial that uses the gene-editing technology to change a patient’s immune cells so they can more effectively detect and kill cancer cells.
Radiation therapy is a form of cancer treatment that uses high doses of radiation to destroy tumors. It also can shrink tumors that are too large to be removed by surgery and help relieve symptoms like pain, breathing and swallowing problems, or bowel blockages caused by advanced cancer.
There are two types of radiation therapy: external beam and internal (brachytherapy). In external beam radiotherapy, the machine aims X-rays, gamma rays or protons at your tumor.
It is done using a special machine called a linear accelerator or linac, which creates a very strong radiation beam that is shaped to target your tumor while sparing nearby healthy tissue. This treatment is often given in a series of weekly sessions over several weeks.
The biological effectiveness (cell killing) of radiation depends on the linear energy transfer (LET), total dose, fractionation rate and radio-sensitivity of the targeted cells or tissues. It is therefore a common practice to deliver treatment in a fractionated regime, where the radiation dosage is delivered in small doses over time, based on differences in the radiobiological properties of cancer and different normal tissues.