Tumors in the pancreas can not be effectively visualized at the macro or micro level. Pancreatic tissue is so friable, that sending any kind of instrumentation into it to explore for cancer would seriously endanger the patient's health. When compared under the microscope, cells biopsied from the duodenum are identical between control patients and those with pancreatic cancer. However, when researchers went one step further and looked at the scale of nanometers, this very same tissue gave new insight. Photons bounce off tissue at different angles depending on whether cells are healthy or not. The technique can "see" the relative difference between healthy and damaged tissue.
Credit: Zina Deretsky and Nicolle Rager Fuller, National Science Foundation
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