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Published December 20, 2012, 11:30 PM

Hot Topics: Study says ‘squeezing’ breast cancer cells guides normal growth

“Squeezing” malignant breast cancer cells could help to guide them back to a normal growth pattern, according to new research from UC Berkeley and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

By: Huffington Post, INFORUM

“Squeezing” malignant breast cancer cells could help to guide them back to a normal growth pattern, according to new research from UC Berkeley and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

Instead of the typical drug-focused methods, the manipulation of cell development through physical force shows for the first time that “mechanical” pressure alone can revert and stop the out-of-control growth of cancer cells,” the university wrote in a release.

The school noted that the genetic mutations behind the malignancy remain, “setting up a nature-versus-nurture battle in determining a cell’s fate.”

Researchers are not touting compression as a cure or treatment, however. “Compression, in and of itself, is not likely to be a therapy,” cautioned Daniel Fletcher, professor of bioengineering at Berkeley and faculty scientist at the Berkeley Lab, in the statement. “But this does give us new clues to track down the molecules and structures that could eventually be targeted for therapies.”

For the experiment, scientists grew gelatin-encased malignant breast epithelial cells in flexible silicone chambers. The squishy housing allowed researchers to apply compression in the early stages of cell growth, the university said. The compressed malignant cells grew more organized and healthy-looking compared with the uncompressed malignant cells.

“People have known for centuries that physical force can influence our bodies,” researcher Gautham Venugopalan explained in the news release. “When we lift weights, our muscles get bigger. The force of gravity is essential to keeping our bones strong. Here we show that physical force can play a role in the growth – and reversion – of cancer cells.”

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