Bioethics Blogs

Cool Videos: Spying on Cancer Cell Invasion

If you’re a fan of the Mission: Impossible spy thrillers, you might think that secret agent Ethan Hunt has done it all. But here’s a potentially life-saving mission that his force has yet to undertake: spying on cancer cells. Never fear—some scientific sleuths already have!

So, have a look at this bio-action flick recently featured in the American Society for Cell Biology’s 2015 Celldance video series. Without giving too much of the plot away, let me just say that it involves cancer cells escaping from a breast tumor and spreading, or metastasizing, to other parts of the body. Along the way, those dastardly cancer cells take advantage of collagen fibers to make a tight-rope getaway and recruit key immune cells, called macrophages, to serve as double agents to aid and abet their diabolical spread.

Produced by M.D./Ph.D. student Edison Leung and research fellow Allison Harney in the lab of John Condeelis at Albert Einstein College of Medicine, New York, this video showcases the power of intravital microscopy (IVM), an extremely high-resolution imaging tool that can monitor cellular and molecular activity in live mice in real time. Although IVM was developed in Germany during the 19th century, the technique never really caught on because when an animal took a breath or made any other small motion, the image shook violently—the visual equivalent of an earthquake! Thanks to modern computer software and Big Data analysis tools, researchers have now developed ways to control for such movement. They have further improved IVM’s scientific utility by incorporating recent advances in tagging biological molecules of interest with fluorescent dyes or other easy-to-visualize probes.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.