Laboratory tests show that applying pressure to cells guides them back to more normal growth patterns.
‘People have known for centuries that physical force can influence our bodies,’ said Gautham Venugopalan, a leading member of the research team at the University of California in Berkeley, US.
‘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.’
The study involved growing malignant breast epithelial cells within a gel injected into flexible silicone chambers.
This allowed the scientists to apply compression during the first stages of cell growth, effectively squashing the cells.
Over time, the squeezed malignant cells began to grow in a more normal and organised way…
‘Malignant cells have not completely forgotten how to be healthy; they just need the right cues to guide them back to a healthy growth pattern,’ said Mr Venugopalan, a doctoral student.
The results were presented today at the annual meeting of the American Society for Cell Biology in San Francisco.