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Israeli lab ‘explodes’ tumors in mice using gas

Israeli scientists have succeeded in destroying cancerous tumors in mice by carrying out “controlled explosions” inside the body to tear apart the cancerous cells.

They hope to develop the procedure for humans and say it could one day become an alternative to tumor removal surgery in some patients.

They injected “nanobubbles” of gas, which are 2,500 times smaller than a grain of salt, into the veins of lab rats.

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The bubbles spread throughout the body as the blood circulated, but the scientists “pop” them exactly where they wanted, just around the tumor. This was possible thanks to low frequency ultrasound. The researchers then applied ultrasound only around the tumor.

“When we apply ultrasound, the bubbles grow up to 100 times their original size,” said the Times of Israel Dr. Tali Ilovitsh, of Tel Aviv University, who led the research.

According to her, this is similar to a controlled explosion used in building demolitions, which are strong enough to destroy the targeted building but not damage nearby buildings. This is how the tumor is targeted without harming other parts of the body.

Dr Tali Ilovitsh added that she has high hopes of applying this research to humans, noting that ‘the experiment was conducted on a mouse model with a tumor identical to breast cancer’. “The treatment will most likely also be effective on other types of tumours, and therefore in humans. »

Dr. Ilovitsh conducted this research, which have been published in the review Nanoscale, along with his PhD student Mike Bismuth, his Tel Aviv University colleague Dr. Dov Hershkovitz, and Pre. Agata Exner of Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, USA.

Dr Tali Ilovitsh center stage and her research team behind the new ‘nanobubble’ approach to destroying tumours, at Tel Aviv University. (Credit: Tel Aviv University)

Ultrasounds are already being used successfully in some cases of human cancer. They are applied through the skin to target tumors. However, the ultrasounds needed are high-intensity and generate heat, which can damage tissue near the tumor.

The bubble technique requires only low-intensity ultrasound. “That means it can spare the body from collateral damage,” Dr. Ilovitsh said.

He added that while there has been research into using bubbles to fight cancer, none have yet led to any real treatments.

For illustration: A healthcare professional administering ultrasound. (Credit: Ivan Balvan via iStock by Getty Images)

Most of the research has focused on injecting bubbles directly into the tumor, which is an invasive procedure, while his is unusual in that it attacks the tumor from the bloodstream, which is noninvasive.

“We don’t touch the tumor directly, but rather inject the nanobubbles into the bloodstream,” explained Dr. Ilovitsh. “We therefore exploit a unique feature of tumors. The blood vessels in the tumor are ‘leaky’, which means that the nanobubbles do not stay put, but many of them leave the vessels and end up in the tumor tissue. »

“Once they’re there, we can use low-intensity ultrasound, which we’ve found in previous research to pop bubbles, to attack tumors. »

“This approach may aid in the treatment of tumors located deep in the body and also facilitate the treatment of larger tumor volumes. It could replace surgery to remove tumors in some cases. It should be followed by chemotherapy or immunotherapy, just like in the case of surgery. This is promising research. »

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