• Question: are cancer cells visible?

    Asked by lemon to Steve on 12 Nov 2016. This question was also asked by mils_chil.
    • Photo: Steven Street

      Steven Street answered on 12 Nov 2016:

      Hi Lemon,

      When you grow them in cell cultures, yes they are! You need a microscope to see them properly though. I can show you a few pictures…

      This is an example of what some cancer cells look like. These are called HeLa cells, which are cervical cancer cells:


      and this is a picture that I’ve taken, at 40x zoom! This is a healthy lung cell line called WI-38 though, so not cancer cells. You can see the shape of the cell is different. The red lumps that you see inside the cells in this picture are actually one of the drugs that I’ve made… you can see it clumping together inside the cell! This isn’t ideal in this case because we don’t really want this to happen to the healthy cell line!


      Hope this answers your question!