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5 Ways to Make Cancer Sample Preparation for Mass Spectroscopy More Approachable

Usama Attiq
Higher Education
Teaching with Labster

Introduction: Cancer Sample Preparation for Mass Spectrometry

Cells are the basic units that form a human body. Cells divide to make new cells because our body needs them. The older cells die and new cells take their place. Cancer is an uncontrollable cell division leading to abnormal cell formation. The cancer cells have the ability to damage the normal tissues of the body. Cancer can grow in any part of the body as the human body is made of cells.

The cancer cells make a mass called a tumor. The tumor is classified into the following; benign tumors and malignant tumors. A benign tumor is a localized tumor that does not invade other body parts. A malignant tumor is a type of tumor that can grow and attack other parts of the body. In the world, cancer is the second leading cause of death after cardiovascular diseases. When cancer cells spread into nearby tissues and start growing new tumors on new body sites, this process is called metastasis.

The survival rate from cancer increases due to the improvement in cancer diagnosis and treatments. For the identification of cancer biomarkers, there are several techniques available in the hospital. It includes mass spectrometry, precipitation, denaturation, and cell lysis. Mass spectrometry is a highly effective method for the detection of cancers.

Cancer sample preparation for mass spectrometry has several aspects that can be confusing for students. At Labster, we compiled all the difficulties that students experience during learning about cancer sample preparation for mass spectrometry. We also provide five ways that can make this topic easier for students to understand. In the end, we will convince you why a virtual lab simulation is an effective tool for teachers to convey the topic to the students. 

cancer prep for mass spectrometry virtual lab

Figure: An image of tumor mass of colon from the Labster virtual laboratory of cancer sample preparation for mass spectrometry

Why cancer sample preparation for mass spectroscopy can be tricky to learn

There are three main reasons that make cancer sample preparation for mass spectrometry difficult for students to understand.

1. It feels abstract

Students need to learn about abstract concepts in cancer sample preparation for mass spectrometry. Cancer cells are very small in size, and you cannot see them with the naked eye. It is difficult for students to understand abstract terms.

2. It’s complicated

Mass spectrometry is a complex tool that consists of three components. These are the ionization source, ion detection system, and mass analyzer. Learning about the components of mass spectrometry to prepare the cancer sample can be difficult for students to remember. Students avoid learning this topic because they find this topic boring and time-consuming.

3. It’s heavy content

When you learn about cancer, there are several types of cancer. The biopsy and mass spectrometry consist of heavy content. You need to learn about the whole organs that are affected by cancer. Students need to learn deeply about the topic to understand the functions and use of mass spectrometry.

5 ways to make cancer sample preparation for mass spectroscopy a more approachable topic to understand

As we are familiar with the difficulties that students experience while learning about cancer sample preparation for mass spectrometry. There are five ways to make this topic simpler to understand.

1. Basic knowledge about the differentiation between the cancerous cell and normal cell

Students should know about cancer cells to better understand cancer sample preparation. Tumor cells are different from normal cells in several ways.

  1. The cancer cells grow without the signaling of the brain. In normal cells, they receive signals and then grow.

  2. The blood vessels are developed around the tumor that provides nutrients and oxygen to the tumor. It helps the tumor to grow bigger in size.

  3. Since the immune system has the ability to remove unnecessary products from the body. The cancer cells hide from the immune system, so the immune system does not detect the cells and eliminate them from the body.

  4. Cancer cells can move and spread to other areas of the body. But the normal cells do not move to the other areas and stop growing after encountering other cells.

  5. Additionally, the cancer cells can absorb different types of nutrients that help them to make energy and grow quickly.

2. Explain colon cancer

Colon cancer is a disease that is characterized by the uncontrollable division of cells of the colon and rectum. Colon cancer is also called colorectal cancer. The colon is the large intestine and also the part of the digestive system while the rectum connects the colon to the anus. The abnormal growth of cells in the colon is called polyps. Sometimes, these polyps turn into cancer cells. Early detection and removal of polyps can help to prevent the occurrence of cancer.

Cancer is classified into several types such as carcinomas, lymphomas, sarcomas, and leukemias. Carcinoma is a type of cancer that starts in the skin and then invades the whole organs and glands. These are solid tumors and the most common type of cancer. Colon cancer is an example of carcinoma.

When someone is diagnosed with colon cancer, the next step is identifying the stage. The stage of cancer tells us how much cancer spreads in the body. It can also explain the condition of the patient, whether it is serious or not.

Stage 0: This is the early stage of colon cancer.

Stage 1: In this stage, the size of the tumor is very small and it does not affect the lymph nodes and tissues.

Stage 2: The tumor increases in size but does not spread to tissues and lymphatic nodes.

Stage 3: In this stage, the cancer size has increased and spread to nearby tissues and lymphatic nodes.

Stage 4: Stage 4 is the advanced stage of cancer in which it spreads to the other organs and the areas of the body. 

colon cancer stages

Figure: An image represents the stages of cancer from the Labster theory. 

3. Importance of spectrometry in cancer treatment

Mass spectrometry is an analytical device that is used to measure the molecules present in a sample. It is used for the detection of cancer cells that can be helpful for the management and treatment of cancer. Additionally, mass spectrometry is effectively used in clinical laboratories. You can also detect the immunosuppressive drugs and analyze the antibiotics.  

The biopsy is a procedure that is used to remove a small portion of your tissue to check it in the laboratory. The biopsy is the main procedure that can be used to get the sample to detect the presence of cancer.

Students should know the working of mass spectrometry which can help to learn about it. Mass spectrometry has an ionization source that produces ions in the sample. The mass analyzer helps to separate the ions according to their mass-to-charge ratio. The second analyzer can be helpful to analyze the selected ions. The detector can convert the ions into electrical signals. It also helps to process the signals to the computer.

Other advantages of mass spectrometry are that it is a very precise, accurate, and sensitive method. It is highly recommended to detect cancer cells because it can identify all the components present in a sample. You need to take a very small sample to use in mass spectrometry. Another important advantage is that mass spectrometry provides the relative molecular mass of each molecule present in the sample.

4. Seeing is believing

Color diagrams play an important role in understanding the cancer sample preparation for mass spectrometry. The diverse colors can help enhance students' interest in the topic. When students learn through color images, they will store them in their memories. It makes difficult topics like cancer sample preparation for mass spectrometry easier to understand.

The image presented below shows the process of mass spectrometry. The doctor is taking samples from the patient’s colon to diagnose cancer. When students see this image, they will better understand the process of taking samples for mass spectrometry. 

cancer prep for mass spectrometry virtual lab 2

Figure: An image of a doctor taking a sample for diagnosis of cancer from the Labster virtual laboratory of cancer sample preparation for mass spectrometry

5. Use of virtual lab simulation

The virtual lab simulation effectively explains tough topics like cancer sample preparation for mass spectrometry. The simulations contain all the information that can help students to prepare for the topic for their exams. At Labster, we provide 3D simulations with gamification elements like storytelling and the scoring system.

Labster simulation on cancer sample preparation for mass spectrometry explains the relation between phosphorylation and cancer and the preparation of biopsy samples for mass spectrometry. This simulation can help the teachers convey cancer sample preparation for mass spectrometry to their students.

cancer sample prep for mass spectroscopy virtual lab GIF

Check out the simulation of cancer sample preparation for mass spectrometry here,or get in touch to find out how you can start usinga virtual lab simulation with your students.

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