Second harmonic generation (SHG) multiphoton imaging can visualize fibrillar collagen in tissues. SHG has previously shown that fibrillar collagen is altered in various types of cancer. In the present study, in vivo high resolution SHG multi-photon tomography in living mice was used to study the relationship between cancer cells and intratumor collagen fibrils. Using green fluorescent protein (GFP) to visualize cancer cells and SHG to image collagen, we demonstrated that collagen fibrils provide a scaffold for cancer cells to align themselves and acquire optimal shape. These results suggest a new paradigm for a stromal element of tumors: their role in maintaining anchorage and shape of cancer cells that may enable them to proliferate.
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