23 November 2013
Most cancer research in the lab involves studying cells and tissues taken from patients or animals. But as technology improves, scientists are turning to computer-generated cancer cells to figure out how tumours grow and spread. All the little balls in this picture are individual ‘virtual’ cells, created by a computer programme. By tweaking the programme to mimic different situations found in real life, such as a wound healing (first column on the left) or changes to the physical properties around the cells, researchers can alter how the cells ‘grow’. Certain conditions cause the cells to grow out of control – as might be seen as a tumour develops (third column from the left). But other conditions can make rogue cells go back to normal, as seen in the column on the right. Models like this help to inform scientists working in the lab, suggesting new approaches to tackle the disease.
Written by Kat Arney
Image by Justin Werfel and Silva Krause
Originally published under a Creative Commons Attribution Licence
Research published in PLoS One, October 2013