Introduction

Routine Microscopy of Cervical Cancer Cells

Working with cancer cell lines to understand persister cells

Persister cells are subpopulations of cancer cells that resist treatment by changing to a state of dormancy or quiescence. Persister cells in cervical cancer can be resistent to cisplatin, an FDA-approved chemotherapeutic drug, or they can show resistance to gene silencing of RBBP6, which codes for the multifunctional regulatory protein called retinoblastoma-binding protein, which binds to the tumor suppressor proteins p53 and pRB.

Dr. Pontsho Moela is a researcher and lecturer at the University of Pretoria, South Africa. She uses ZEISS Primovert for routine microscopy of her cell lines that support her research understanding cervical cancer persister cells.

Dr. Pontsho Moela, University of Pretoria, South Africa

While I had wanted to become a medical doctor to help my country in the fight against HIV/AIDS, fate landed me in a cancer research lab during my postgraduate studies. I quickly developed a passion for research, mainly influenced by how prevalent both breast and cervical cancers are in South Africa.

Dr. Pontsho Moela

University of Pretoria, South Africa

Routine Microscopy to Support Cancer Research

Images of Cell Cultures Acquired with ZEISS Primovert

Unstained human embryonic kidney cells (HEK293) imaged with brightfield microscopy
Unstained human embryonic kidney cells (HEK293) imaged with brightfield microscopy

Unstained human embryonic kidney cells (HEK293)

Brightfield microscopy

Human embryonic kidney cells (HEK293) stained for RBBP6
Human embryonic kidney cells (HEK293) stained for RBBP6

Human embryonic kidney cells (HEK293) stained for RBBP6

Fluorescence microscopy

From Cell Culture to Morphology Analysis

In addition to using microscopy with ZEISS Primovert to visualize our cell cultures, Dr. Moela and her team also use microscopy for morphology analysis.

Viable, highly proliferative cells maintain their original shape, be it the spikey protrusions in epithelial HeLa cells or the dome structures normally observed in MCF-7 monolayer cells. HEK293 is another cell line that shows a high level of RBBP6 expression as visualized by immunostaining. However, when undergoing apoptotic cell death in response to RBBP6 silencing, these cells undergo morphological changes such as membrane blebbing, nuclei collapse, and an irregular overall shape, which can be assessed with routine microscopy.

Cervical cancer cells have a level of resistance towards cisplatin treatment and our research seeks to improve this by silencing the RBBP6 gene since it has been shown to promote cancer cell proliferation. We use RNAi technology to knockdown the RBBP6 gene in cancer cells and our previous studies show a resulting strong apoptosis induction and cell cycle arrest in breast and cervical cancer cells.

Dr. Pontsho Moela

University of Pretoria, South Africa


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