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New “Tumor Paint” That Glows Will Aid Surgeons Where To Cut

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An incredible medical breakthrough in the form of a “tumor paint” has been made which will help surgeons know exactly where to cut out tumors.

The invention created by a group of researchers, will be injected into the patients veins and cause the cancer cells to “glow”.  After extremely successful animal trials on dogs, the new tumor paint is being tested in California on human patients.

If all trials go well, this will be a massive breakthrough for brain tumor surgery, an often complicated and very long procedure.

Popular Science reports:

Brain surgery is notoriously complicated. Before surgeons go in to remove a tumor, they study the size and location of the tumor.

tumor paint

But once they’re in, they have to rely on their fingers and eyes to distinguish tumor cells from healthy brain cells. Now researchers have developed a “paint” that can be injected into a patient’s veins to make tumor cells glow. After a number of successful studies in mice and dogs, the paint is now being tested in humans in California.

The paint is made from two chemicals. The first is chlorotoxin, a protein derived from scorpion venom, which targets the chloride receptors on the surface of tumor cells. The protein carries a second, non-toxic chemical that makes the cells fluoresce when they are exposed to near-infrared light.

Tests at this early stage are designed to make sure that the paint works as it’s supposed to, and initial results have been promising. Researchers injected the tumor paint into the patients’ veins and it was successfully able to cross the blood-brain barrier, which protects the brain from harmful chemicals that might be in the blood. The first few test subjects had tumors that were deep in the brain, so the surgeons had to remove a piece of the tissue before shining a light on it.

“[T]he question was, ‘Does it glow?’ And when we saw that it glows, it was just one of those moments…’Wow, this works,’” Chirag Patil, one of the researchers behind the test at Cedars Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, told NPR.

The paint may also be used for other types of tumors in the future.

Ideally, doctors wouldn’t be using surgery at all to eliminate tumors–it’s still a “crude” technique, as one researcher said. But while surgery is still a standard treatment, tumor paint could help surgeons be much more precise.

Royce Christyn
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