Spectacular Innovation in Cell Research

2017, April 5 - 14:43
Researchers of the University of Debrecen have made a major breakthrough in the observation of living cells. In fact, they have constructed a unique video-microscope system the use of which opens up new vistas in cancer research and pharmacology.

Nowhere else in the world has it been possible to take pictures or record images of live cells for so long and in such a quantity as at the University of Debrecen. The process of cells developing into tissues has been monitored and photographed here minute by minute during a time period of 28 days with the help of a uniquely constructed system comprising four video microscopes. Using other methods of microscopy, so far it has only been possible to examine artificially bred cells for a few hours or a few days at most.

“A special feature of this equipment is that, by maintaining the appropriate conditions, we can keep the cells alive under the microscopes. Thus, it is possible to for us to monitor their “private lives,” which means that now we are also able to examine the behavior of individual cells that exist in a population of other cells. This result has been achieved through setting the equipment to take microscopy assisted shots every second for a time period even as long as weeks of the in vitro cell cultures,” said Gábor Szemán-Nagy, the Head of eTox workgroup of the Department of Biotechnology and Microbiology at the Institute of Biology and Ecology.

Through the imaging procedure developed by the researchers at the Faculty of Science and Technology of the University of Debrecen, it is possible to study several thousands of live cells without them “noticing” it. Although live cells are usually prone to change the way they behave when influenced by light of varying wavelength, the researchers at UD use an infrared light in their work processes that does not have an impact on the proper operation or functioning of cells, so the latter may be observed unnoticeably.

This unique piece of equipment represents a breakthrough in the observation of live or in vitro cells, such as tumor cells or skin cells, for example. By using the new system, it is possible to study not only momentary stages of condition but also processes, which opens up new horizons in the examination possibilities of the dynamics of live systems. Gábor Szemán-Nagy believes that this is exactly like getting security footage of the way these cells behave and operate.

“It is possible to “rewind” the series of snapshots in order to catch the events of key importance, for example, what exactly happens to that one single cell out of several thousand others which is responsible for the formation of a deadly tumor. In fact we can follow the entire course of the phenomenon from the beginning to the end, which is of great significance in cancer research,” said Associate Professor Szemán-Nagy.

Thanks to this innovation introduced at the university, considerable progress might be achieved in the analysis of the mechanism of action of anti-neoplastic preparations, while new anti-tumor strategies might also be possible to be developed through it.

Video-microscopes are of great assistance and importance in the examination of pathogens and in the development of fungicides and other medicines, while they could also facilitate the upgrading of catheters, artificial heart valves, and implants, as well as the production of sterile materials or surfaces. The reason for this latter opportunity is that the method can be used to demonstrate if a given coating hinders the adherence of pathogens to a surface, which could cause fatal complications when entering the body of a patient who has recently undergone any organ transplant surgery.

In addition, by making use of the advantages of the video-microscopy system, researchers of the University of Debrecen were among the first who could record the trivision of cells through the course of several generations of cells.
Scientists so far have only suspected the reasons behind and the frequency rate of this rare phenomenon.

However, the research staff working at the Department of Biotechnology and Microbiology have recently figured out the dynamics inherent in the temporal relations of cell trivision and which cells exactly are likely to undergo this process. They have proved that the phenomenon of trivision, which occurs frequently in the case of cancerous cells, is more typical than it had been supposed beforehand, and that it is also possible in the case of otherwise healthy cells, too.

The researchers of our university have managed to refute the false belief that one single cell does not count at all, while they have also proved that trivision has a cell-level evolutional background, since single cells would also want to survive. Apart from the Hungarian appearances, the findings of the workgroup have also been published in the prestigious international scientific journals DNA and Cell Biology and Toxicology in Vitro.

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