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All cells are surrounded by a brush layer on their surface. These brush layers, which consist mainly of microvilli, microridges and cilia, are important for interactions with the environment. Normal cells have brushes of one length, whereas cancerous cells have mostly two brush lengths of significantly different densities. Cancerous cells differ from normal cells in terms of cell growth, morphology, cell–cell interaction, organization of the cytoskeleton, and interactions with the extracellular matrix

BREAST CANCER • • Researchers in the breast cancer study attach nanoparticles of iron oxide to antibodies The patient is placed between magnetic coils that generate a small magnetic field and cause the nanoparticles to align in one direction. When the magnetic field is removed, the nanoparticles emit an electromagnetic signal that can be measured by sensitive magnetic sensors known as SQUID(Superconducting Quantum Interference Device) to indicate how many magnetic particles, and therefore how many cancer cells, are present, and where in the breast they are located. It is said the technique is 1,000 times more sensitive than a mammogram. PANCREATIC CANCER • • Researchers have created tools for early diagnosis of pancreatic cancer A molecule is attached that binds pancreatic cancer cells to tiny nanoparticles made of iron oxide. The iron oxide particles have a core that is 10 nanometers in diameter, with a polymer coating The iron makes the particles clearly visible under magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). The molecule that allows the particles to discriminate between pancreatic cancer cells and healthy cells is an engineered small protein based on a natural protein found in humans, urokinase plasminogen activator (uPA), which binds to its receptor (uPAR) on cancer cells.

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