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Author Topic: Listening for Cancer  (Read 6587 times)

Offline JamesE

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Listening for Cancer
« on: October 02, 2006, 09:11:55 PM »
From New York Times

Listening for Cancer

Published: December 12, 2004

Three years ago, the nanotechnology expert James Gimzewski realized something startling about human cells: since they have many tiny moving parts, they might be producing tiny vibrations. And since all vibrations produce noise, it would be theoretically possible to listen to the sound of a cell. Gimzewski set about adapting an extremely small device to measure these vibrations and then with another device proceeded to amplify them loud enough for human ears. He discovered that a yeast cell produced about 1,000 vibrations a second. When he amplified the signal, a musical hum filled the room. ''It wasn't at all what I expected,'' he recalls. ''It sounded beautiful.''

Beautiful, and also potentially revolutionary. Gimzewski says that his technique could become a unique tool in the war against cancer: to figure out if a cell is malignant, doctors could simply listen to it.

When a cell turns cancerous, its internal machinery alters: it might divide more rapidly, and its walls could take a new shape. Those changes, Gimzewski surmises, would produce distinctive rates of vibration and thus distinctive noises. He has already measured the acoustics of some cells going through death cycles. When he measured an inert yeast cell, its lack of movement produced a dead-sounding hiss. And when he immersed a bunch of yeast in alcohol, the cells emitted a creepy ''screaming'' sound as they suddenly perished. Even minute changes -- like getting warmer -- make the cells sing differently. Gimzewski calls his technique sonocytology, and in August he published the first paper on this field in the journal Science.

Gimzewski's work has attracted some unusual enthusiasts. Representatives of the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi contacted him (''they apparently thought I'd discovered 'the language of life,''' he says), and a horror-movie director asked if he could use the sound of screaming cells in his soundtrack. But cancer specialists are seriously interested, and Gimzewski is now trying to adapt his device to listen to human cells.

Offline Sue Clarry

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Re: Listening for Cancer
« Reply #1 on: October 19, 2006, 04:00:56 PM »
Fascinating! This is reminiscent of that classic book, The Secret Life of Plants by Peter Tompkins and Christopher Bird, showing that plants not only register pain when their leaves are burned, but they also register alarm, fear, etc. when another plant is about to be burned! Talk about screaming cells!

Id be interested to know more about Gimzewski's procedure for isolating cells to listen to. How invasive is it?