Proteins that cause luminescence in jellyfish could be used to spot cancers, say scientists.
British scientists have found a way of using luminous cells from jellyfish to spot tumours deep within the human body.
Researcher Norman Maitland believes the technology could be at least ten times better than CT scanners at detecting tumours.
“Cancers deep within the body are difficult to spot at an early stage and early diagnosis is critical for the successful treatment of any form of cancer,” said Maitland.
“What we have developed is a process which involves inserting proteins derived from luminous jellyfish cells into human cancer cells.
”Then, when we illuminate the tissue, a special camera detects these proteins as they light up, indicating where the tumours are,” he said.
Maitland of the York University has used a harmless virus to carry the protein to the tumour.
Maitland said: “When a specially developed camera is switched on, the proteins just flare up and you can see where the cancer cells are. We call the process “Virimaging”.”
CT scanners can only detect tumours after several thousand cells have formed.
But the new technique, which is still in the early stages of development, can spot bundles of fewer than 100 cancerous cells.
It could be used to spot new cancers, as well as look for those that have spread throughout the body or returned after treatment, he said.