Researchers are using cell tracking technology to uncover how diseases, like cancer, progress

PORTLAND, Ore. Each year, almost two million people will be diagnosed with cancer.

Researchers are trying to find news ways to track how cancers will grow, spread, and mutate.

One single cell can provide a slew of information on what's happening in the body.

"It allows us to actually isolate specific regions within a tumor and explore what are the various different cell types within those regions of the tumor because tumors have a lot of different cells doing a lot of different things," said Andrew Adey, Associate Professor at Oregon Health & Science University

The technique also allows the researchers to track where the cells are coming from so researchers can see how diseases progress and alter healthy tissue.

"That could lead to potential novel targets that could be used to develop drugs to specifically target those specific alterations that occur," Adey added.

It makes it possible to watch the disease at the molecular level and create a precise treatment for more personalized care.

Professor Adey says that this cell-tracking technique would be useful for other diseases besides cancer, including neurological diseases and diseases that affect the heart and blood vessel.

"With this newest technology, what we've been able to do is instead of just isolating these cells from a large piece of tissue, we can actually track where these cells are present within the tissue," Adey explained.

Non-invasive tracking of immune and stem cells were primarily intended for potential cancer therapy applications while tracking of cancer cells could further our understanding of cancer development and tumor metastasis.

"So, it gives us a really precise mapping of where these cells are derived from within that piece of tissue, which can give us insights into a lot of disease states where there's actually a spatial component."

Cell-based therapy holds great promise and has long been on the horizon of cancer treatment. Cell-based therapies offer the ability to non-invasively track the delivery of various therapeutic cells, like T cells and stem cells, to the tumor site, and if or how they spread.

But it's not just cancers.

"One of the things that we applied this technology to was in stroke, where there's a very strong spatial component at the site of the injury and then radiating out from it," said Adey.

"We're able to actually capture that spatial information radiating out from that site of injury with all of the different cell types that are present and how those are altered in different ways with relation to the injury site and the spatial position, he added.

Safety is a high concern for researchers in future clinical applications and the ideal imaging modality for tracking therapeutic cells in cancer patients requires the imaging tags to be non-toxic, biocompatible, and highly specific.

If this story has impacted your life or prompted you or someone you know to seek or change treatments, please let us know by contacting Jim Mertens at jim.mertens@wqad.comor Marjorie Bekaert Thomas at

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YOUR HEALTH: Finding cures by tracking cells -

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