Scientists at Tufts University have succeeded in growing brain tumors, particularly ependymoma and glioblastoma, in Petri dishes by mimicking the environment as that within the brain. By creating the imitated microenvironment in a petri dish, surgeons and researchers can comprehensively study the tumors in a non-invasive manner and discover appropriate ways of controlling such tumor-causing cells.
The scientists created a small 3D structure composed of brain-derived (ECM) extracellular matrix, which is naturally present within the brain, supports brain tissue, and assists cellular growth. Mimicking the 3D supporting structure is crucial, as there is evidence indicating strong involvement of ECM in directing tumor growth and the chain reaction that alters genetic and protein expression within cancer-causing cells.
Prof. David Kaplan, the lead scientist of this groundbreaking research, said that by using this novel approach, researchers could examine the role of ECM’s every element in tumor growth through alteration in its composition. Moreover, by culturing the extracted tumor cells on the ECM-derived platform, the researchers can in vitro monitor the 3D growth of tumors using particular non-invasive imaging techniques.
On a related note, diagnosticians and medical specialists generally exploit CT and MRI scanning techniques these days for spotting tumors hiding underneath exoskeleton and muscles. However, a team of researchers at Stanford University has developed a nanoparticles-based groundbreaking methodology, through which tumor cells residing within the body begin to illuminate. Apart from spotting and tracking tumor cells, this novel technique also lets clinicians predict patients’ response against particular immunotherapy.
The team chose a rare-earth metal, erbium, to form nanoparticles, as that rare element starts glowing when exposed to infrared radiation. For effective adherence of those nanoparticles with the tumor cells, the researchers coated them with a layer of cancer-specific antibodies. Besides adherence, the layer also mitigates the toxicity levels of nanoparticles dispersing throughout the body via the bloodstream.