Instead of 3-D printing, scientists at Purdue University have used what they call 3D writing to come up with a model that will help better understand cancer spread.
Previously scientists have created 3-D printed controlled cancer environment, but these replicas are still not realistic enough for drug screening. Further, previous studies have shown that most cancer deaths happen because of how it spreads, or metastasizes, in the body. A major hurdle for treating cancer is not being able to experiment with metastasis itself and knock out what it needs to spread.
Because of limitations of 3-D printing as far as resolutions are concerned, scientists opted for what they call 3-D writing. The device that they developed, a 3-D jet writer, acts like a 3-D printer by producing polymer microtissues as they are shaped in the body, but on a smaller, more authentic scale with pore sizes large enough for cells to enter the polymer structure just as they would a system in the body.
3-D jet writing is a fine-tuned form of electrospinning, the process of using a charged syringe containing a polymer solution to draw out a fiber, and then deposit the fiber onto a plate to form a structure. This structure is a scaffold that facilitates cell activity.
Scientists have used the device to write a structure that drew in cancer cells to sites in mice where cancer would not normally develop, confirming that the device could create a feasible cancer environment. Other studies have increased cancer cells in human samples for better analysis and maintained receptors on these cells that drugs would need to find.
“Ideally, we could use our system as an unbiased drug screening platform where we could screen thousands of compounds, hopefully get data within a week, and get it back to a clinician so that it’s all within a relevant time frame,” said Purdue researcher Luis Solorio.
Initial findings published on Feb. 27 in Advanced Materials based on Solorio’s work as part of a team at the University of Michigan Biointerfaces Institute. He completed data analysis and writing while on faculty at Purdue.