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Adding Another Dimension to Cancer Research: Three-dimensional Printing of Cancer Cells

Traditionally, researchers have relied on two-dimensional single-layer cell culture to analyze the physiological characteristics of tumor cells and their response to anti-cancer therapies. However, an international team of scientists recently used a three-dimensional (3D) printer to construct a three-dimensional (3D) model of a cancerous tumor, which may provide a more realistic representation of the tumor’s microenvironment and thus improve knowledge on how tumors develop, grow, and spread.

The 3D model, which is described in the April 2014 issue of Biofabrication, consisted of a scaffold of fibrous proteins covered in cervical cancer cells. A 10 mm by 10 mm grid structure made of gelatin, alginate, and fibrin was used to recreate the fibrous proteins that comprise the extracellular matrix of the tumor. The scientists showed that 90% of the cancer cells remained viable after printing. Furthermore, the 3D model had a higher proliferation rate, protein expression, and resistance to anti-cancer drugs than their 2D model, indicating that the 3D model better resembles a real tumor and may be a more accurate model to study development, invasion, metastasis, and treatment of cancer.

The researchers of this study state the next step is to investigate the cell-cell and cell-substrate communication and immune response in the 3D models, which may help elucidate the efficacy and safety of cancer therapies in in vitro models.

Source: Yu Z et al 2014. Three-dimensional printing of Hela cells for cervical tumor model in vitro. Biofabrication 6 035001.

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