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Cancer Cell Electricity

May 3, 2010

Tiny tumors could be detected by the electricity given off by cancer cells.


Getting a charge out of cancer cells…I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Detecting very small, early stage tumors with imaging techniques such as ultrasound, x-rays, and MRI can be tough. But a new technology being developed could provide a way to detect even the tiniest tumors. Electrical engineer Magda El-Shenawee of the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville is studying the electrical signals given off by breast cancer cells. She says the current is caused by charged ions moving from the blood to the cells when they divide.

MAGDA EL-SHENAWEE (University of Arkansas):
If the cell is healthy cell, there is a certain level of this movement. But if the cell is malignant cell, this movement is much, much higher.

She and a graduate student, Ahmed Hassan, modeled the current given off by a single cell and are now scaling up to the tens of thousands of cells that would be found in a tumor. I’m Bob Hirshon for AAAS, the science society.