Biomedical Engineering Blog

Biomedical Engineering

The Biomedical Engineering blog is the place for conversation and discussion about topics related to engineering principles of the medical field. Here, you'll find everything from discussions about emerging medical technologies to advances in medical research. The blog's owner, Chelsey H, is a graduate of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) with a degree in Biomedical Engineering.

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Cancer Cells: New Ways to Destroy the Enemy Within

Posted August 14, 2007 6:00 AM by shanlax

Fighting cancer is like waging war. Like soldiers on a field of battle, oncologists need to target hostile cancer cells while avoiding collateral damage to friendly, healthy ones. Today, researchers from Virginia Tech and the University of California, Berkeley are working to arm medical professionals for this life-or-death struggle. Irreversible electroporation (IRE), a process that produces cell permeability through a reversible opening which then can be made into an irreversible opening, is a new and important weapon in doctors' medical arsenal. By creating this irreversible opening, IRE can target and kill cancer cells with superior accuracy.

Understanding Irreversible Electroporation (IRE)

Irreversible electroporation (IRE) is better than the heating and freezing applications used by oncologists today. Although heating and freezing can be effective, it can damage healthy cells and miss malignant cells. Thanks to research by Rafael Davalos of Virginia Tech and Boris Rubinsky of the University of California-Berkeley, oncologists may soon have a better way to target cancer cells. With IRE, small electrodes are placed in and/or around the human body. These tiny electrodes cause small but intense electric pulses that permanently open tumor cells irreversibly in a matter of seconds. IRE does not require the administration of potentially harmful drugs, but destroys cancer cells while keeping the blood vessels of the human body intact.

Research, Clinical Trials and Prostate Cancer

Based on the results of their work with the livers of male Sprague-Daley rats, Davalos and Rubinsky hope to use IRE in clinical trials for patients with prostate cancer, the second most common cancer for American men. Although there are several surgical treatments for prostate cancer, common side effects include urinary problems and erectile dysfunction (ED). Fortunately, IRE can eliminate the need for surgery and target only the area of the tumor. Armed with encouraging results from animal research, Davalos and Rubinsky also forsee the use of IRE with several different types of cancer tumors.

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