How can you observe a tumor as it develops? Sure, you could grow one in a petri dish. But it’s a pretty lame mad scientist who falls back on glassware. It’s much more fun if you can observe a tumor in a live animal…by installing a window in its belly.
Dutch researchers surgically implanted glass panes into mice’s abdomens, creating rodents with full mobility—and insides on full display. Then the mouse livers were infected with colorectal tumor cells that produced fluorescent proteins, making them easy to image. The scientists watched through the abdominal windows as the cells developed into tumors and spread.
By showing cancer in action, the windows revealed the behavior of individual cells. We used to think that cells only moved around during the beginning of the metastasis process, but it turns out that they keep on wiggling even after establishing a tumor in a new site. Their motion may help cancer cells migrate through the body. The work is published in Science Translational Medicine.
And the experiment also proves that whoever decided “the eyes are the windows to the soul” clearly hadn’t seen a mouse with an abdominal peep-hole.
Video courtesy of Science Translational Medicine / AAAS