Written by: The Midland Certified Reagent Company
Summary: Before we can fight cancer, we must be able to identify it.
There are many forms of cancer, some benign and some malignant. That’s not even scratching the surface of how cancer can potentially affect the body, and where tumors may be located. Cancer is not an easy disease to pinpoint, which makes it difficult to test for. The logistics of why that is are important in understanding the fight against cancer.
The process begins with identification, but that presents a conundrum. Without some kind of fluorescent label, scientists would have a difficult time distinguishing cancer cells from regular cells. Under a microscope, they look virtually the same. Relying on human eyes is not very efficient either, not when so much precision is required.
Scientists have engineered something called a molecular beacon probe, which aims to seek out disease-ridden cells in the body. These probes are microscopic, and designed to attract to certain cells or certain cellular qualities. They release a chemical that appears fluorescent under the correct lighting, which helps identify the affected cells.
Working on a cure involves studying many aspects of the disease. Scientists look for methods to study the DNA of the diseased cells, to see what alterations were made. Once a cure is devised, the treatment can’t be tested immediately in humans. We might not know the effects for many years if we leave science to human testing, because we have to monitor for more than just the cure. What about effects years down the road?
Testing within a lab allows scientists to observe changes in the subject’s DNA, and recreate some specific circumstances using modified oligos. This reduces the risk to live test subjects and makes medical testing a safer proposition.