Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Cancer cells

Years ago, I grew cancer cells in vitro and in vivo in the laboratory at the Cleveland Clinic. I grew them so that we could perform experiments on them. These experiments varied, from studying their cell cycle phase (mitosis vs plateau) to their radiation sensitivity, to their phosphorous content through NMR spectroscopy, plus much, much more. Cells that were dividing or in mitosis were more susceptible to radiation because the DNA was exposed to the damage from radiation, whereas plateau phase cells tended to be radioresistant and didn't do much when zapped with radiation except sit there.

The word in vitro means that the cancer cells were grown in petrie dishes or culture dishes in a certain type of medium. These cancer cells could have been mammalian or human in origin, but the bottom line was that they were cancer cells. This word "cancer" came with a lot of assumptions, such as the following:
1) Cancer cells grow in Carbon Dioxide incubators only
2) Cancer cells need some form of bovine fetal calf serum and glucose to live on
3) cancer cells needed to be reseeded after so many doublings
4) They typically doubled every 8-10 hours (mammalian cancer cells)
5) If left alone in a dish, cancer cells would outgrow their medium and eventually die.

The word in vivo means that the cancer cells were living in an animal host, mostly mice. The mice we used varied. Little gray mice with hair were used for certain cancers, while nude mice with no hair or color (and with hardly an immune system) were used for other cancers. The cancer cells would be cultured in the laboratory and then concentrated to a certain amount and injected into the leg of the mouse. This procedure usually had to be planned weeks in advance in order to have the right amount of cells for the injection. Once the animal was injected, a certain period of time would pass and the tumor would result. The tumors were then studied.

Now, years later, as a wife, homeschooling mother, author, and poet, I have other things to occupy my time. One of them, is writing cancer articles with my husband Anthony Apostolides,Ph.D. Our articles can be accessed through Townsend Letter

Now I am no longer studying cancer cells in the lab, but their devastating effect on human beings on a much larger scale. This has been a painful experience for my family, for I have lost my father, mother-in-law, and brother-in-law to cancer, all within a few years of each other. This has become a mission for me and my husband as we devote our time to educating the public on this cancer epidemic.

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