Women's Health

Biomedical Engineering Student Seeks to Understand Early Stages of Ovarian Cancer

Analysis of follicular fluid may help reveal some answers

Currently, Flanigan is analyzing the follicular fluid, which is the fluid that is released when the ovarian follicle releases an egg. It has been found that this fluid helps to ensure the survival of the fallopian tube cells and it also helps the floating cells to develop new connections. Since the follicular fluid consists of hundreds of molecules, Flanigan hopes to find the ones that are responsible for prolonging the survival of the fallopian tube cells. In the laboratory, he takes the mutated cells and stimulates them in order to get them to float to the ovary.

However, he inserts a hydrophobic coating at the bottom of the petri dish, which prevents the cells from attaching to other surroundings, thus allowing them to float freely. Flanigan can then analyze how the fallopian tube cells respond to different mixtures of molecules from the follicular fluid, in an attempt to identify the actual molecules responsible for survival of the fallopian tube cells. “Earlier detection of ovarian cancer could lead to a significant increase in its survival rate, however, before we can achieve earlier diagnoses, we need to gain a better understanding of early-stage ovarian cancer progression,” said Andy Fleszar, a biomedical engineering PhD student and Flanigan’s mentor.