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PUBLIC RELEASE DATE:
10-Apr-2014

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Contact: Michael Bishop
michael.bishop@iop.org
01-179-301-032
Institute of Physics

3-D printing cancer cells to mimic tumors

A group of researchers in China and the US have successfully created a 3D model of a cancerous tumour using a 3D printer.

The model, which consists of a scaffold of fibrous proteins coated in cervical cancer cells, has provided a realistic 3D representation of a tumour's environment and could help in the discovery of new drugs and cast new light on how tumours develop, grow and spread throughout the body.

The results of the study have been published today, 11 April, in IOP Publishing's journal Biofabrication.

The model consists of a grid structure, 10 mm in width and length, made from gelatin, alginate and fibrin, which recreates the fibrous proteins that make up the extracellular matrix of a tumour.

The grid structure is coated in Hela cells—a unique, 'immortal' cell line that was originally derived from a cervical cancer patient in 1951. Due to the cells' ability to divide indefinitely in laboratory conditions, the cell line has been used in some of the most significant scientific breakthrough studies of the past 50 years.

Although the most effective way of studying tumours is to do so in a clinical trial, ethical and safety limitations make it difficult for these types of studies to be carried out on a wide scale.

To overcome this, 2D models, consisting of a single layer of cells, have been created to mimic the physiological environment of tumours so that different types of drugs can be tested in a realistic way.

With the advent of 3D printing, it is now possible to provide a more realistic representation of the environment surrounding a tumour, which the researchers have demonstrated in this study by comparing results from their 3D model with results from a 2D model.

In addition to testing if the cells remained viable, or alive, after printing, the researchers also examined how the cells proliferated, how they expressed a specific set of proteins, and how resistant they were to anti-cancer drugs.

The proteins studied were part of the MMP protein family. These proteins are used by cancer cells to break through their surrounding matrix and help tumours to spread. Resistance to anti-cancer drugs, which was also studied, is a good indicator of tumour malignancy.

The results revealed that 90 per cent of the cancer cells remained viable after the printing process. The results also showed that the 3D model had more similar characteristics to a tumour compared to 2D models and in the 3D model the cancer cells showed a higher proliferation rate, higher protein expression and higher resistance to anti-cancer drugs.

The lead author of the research, Professor Wei Sun, from Tsinghua University, China, and Drexel University, USA, said: "We have provided a scalable and versatile 3D cancer model that shows a greater resemblance to natural cancer than 2D cultured cancer cells."

"With further understanding of these 3D models, we can use them to study the development, invasion, metastasis and treatment of cancer using specific cancer cells from patients. We can also use these models to test the efficacy and safety of new cancer treatment therapies and new cancer drugs."

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From Friday 11 April, this paper can be downloaded from http://iopscience.iop.org/1758-5090/6/3/035001/article

Notes to Editors

Contact

1. For further information, a full draft of the journal paper or contact with one of the researchers, contact IOP Press Officer, Michael Bishop:
Tel: 0117 930 1032
E-mail: michael.bishop@iop.org

For more information on how to use the embargoed material above, please refer to our embargo policy.

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2. The IOP Publishing Journalist Area gives journalists access to embargoed press releases, advanced copies of papers, supplementary images and videos. In addition to this, a weekly news digest is uploaded into the Journalist Area every Friday, highlighting a selection of newsworthy papers set to be published in the following week.

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To apply for a free subscription to this service, please email Michael Bishop, IOP Press Officer, michael.bishop@iop.org, with your name, organisation, address and a preferred username.

Three-dimensional printing of Hela cells for cervical tumor model in vitro

3. The published version of the paper 'Three-dimensional printing of Hela cells for cervical tumor model in vitro' (Zhao Y I et al 2014 Biofabrication 6 035001) will be freely available online from Friday 11 April. It will be available at http://iopscience.iop.org/1758-5090/6/3/035001/article

Biofabrication

4. A journal focusing on using cells, proteins, biomaterials and/or other bioactive elements as building blocks to fabricate advanced biological models, medical therapeutic products and non-medical biological systems.

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5. IOP Publishing provides a range of journals, conference proceedings, magazines, websites, books and other services that enable researchers and research organisations to achieve the biggest impact for their work.

We combine the culture of a global learned society with highly efficient and effective publishing systems and processes. We serve researchers in the physical and related sciences in all parts of the world through our offices in the UK, US, Germany, China and Japan, and staff in many other locations including Mexico and Russia.

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Surplus generated by IOP Publishing is gift aided to the Institute to support science and scientists in both the developed and developing world.

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6. Access to Research is an initiative through which the UK public can gain free, walk-in access to a wide range of academic articles and research at their local library. This article is freely available through this initiative. For more information, go to http://www.accesstoresearch.org.uk.

The Institute of Physics

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