Dec 14, 2018 | By Thomas

Researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have 3D printed a novel microfluidic device that simulates cancer treatments on biopsied tumor tissue. The 3D printed device can help clinicians better examine how individual patients may respond to different therapeutics before administering a single dose.

Artificial tumors are often used to test drugs on specific cancer types. But these models take weeks to grow and don’t account for an individual patient’s biological makeup, which will greatly affect the efficacy of the cancer treatment.

The researchers’ device, which can be 3D printed in about one hour, is a chip slightly larger than a quarter, with three cylindrical “chimneys” rising from the surface. The chambers are ports that can be used to input and drain fluids such as immunotherapy agents or immune cells, as well as remove unwanted air bubbles.

A key feature was using a new biocompatible resin that can support long-term survival of biopsied tissue. After experimenting with numerous resins over several months, the researchers landed finally on Pro3dure GR-10, which is primarily used to make mouthguards that protect against teeth grinding.

The material is nearly as transparent as glass, has barely any surface defects, and can be printed in very high resolution. And importantly, the researchers found that it does not negatively impact cell survival. The team subjected the resin to cytotoxicity test. After the 96 hours, the cells in the material were still kicking.

“When you print some of these other resin materials, they emit chemicals that mess with cells and kill them. But this doesn’t do that,” says Luis Fernando Velásquez-García, a researcher in the Microsystems Technology Laboratories. “To the best of my knowledge, there’s no other printable material that comes close to this degree of inertness. It’s as if the material isn’t there.”

In this experiment, the researchers showed they could keep a tumor fragment alive and monitor the tissue viability. Because the 3D printed device is easy and cheap to fabricate, it could be rapidly implemented into clinical settings, the researchers say.

“If someone has cancer, you can take a bit of tissue in our device, and keep the tumor alive, to run multiple tests in parallel and figure out what would work best with the patient’s biological makeup. And then implement that treatment in the patient,” says Velásquez-García.

(i): Translucent 3D schematic of TAP device; (ii): cross-section schematic of TAP device showing the architecture of the bubble trap; (iii): top viewschematic of TAP device showing inlet port for media and lymphocytes (A), bubble trapping port for evacuation of trapped air (B), tumor trapping region(C),and device outlet (D); (iv): translucent 3D schematic showing a close-up of the tumor-trapping region with inlet and outlet channels (notice that the tumor-trapping pocket extends below the plane of the channels).

A promising application is testing immunotherapy, a new treatment method using certain drugs to rev up a patient’s immune system to help it fight cancer.

“Immunotherapy treatments have been specifically developed to target molecular markers found on the surface of cancer cells," says first author Ashley Beckwith, a graduate researcher in Velásquez-García’s research group. "This helps to ensure that the treatment elicits an attack on the cancer directly while limiting negative impacts on healthy tissue. However, every individual’s cancer expresses a unique array of surface molecules — as such, it can be difficult to predict who will respond to which treatment. Our device uses the actual tissue of the person, so is a perfect fit for immunotherapy.”

Next, the researchers aim to test how the tumor fragments respond to real therapeutics.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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