April 11, 2014

Using 3D printing, a group of researchers in China and the US have successfully created a 3D model of a cancerous tumour. The model, which consists of a scaffold of fibrous proteins coated in cervical cancer cells, has provided a realistic 3D representation of the environment surrounding a tumour so that different types of drugs can be tested in a realistic way, the researchers said.

To build the structure, the researchers mixed cervical cancer cells and gelatin/alginate/fibrinogen hydrogels and fed the mixture into a 3D cell printer. The 3D printed in-vitro cellular cancer model consists of a grid structure, 10 mm in width and length, which resembles the fibrous proteins that make up the extracellular matrix of a tumour.

The cervical cancer cells used for 3D printing were HeLa cells, a unique, 'immortal' cell line that was originally derived from a cervical cancer patient, Henrietta Lacks, in 1951. Due to the cells' ability to divide indefinitely in laboratory conditions, the cell line has been used in many studies.

Traditionally scientists create 2D models, consisting of a single layer of cells, to mimic the physiological environment of tumours. With the advent of 3D printing, it is now possible to provide a more realistic representation to reveal the tumor cells' characteristics. 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 results revealed that 90% 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.

"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," said Professor Wei Sun from Drexel University, USA, the lead author of the research.

"We can also use these models to test the efficacy and safety of new cancer treatment therapies and new cancer drugs."

"The ultimate goal is to enhance the quality of life for people," he says.

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



Posted in 3D Printing Applications

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