How ECM proteins are helping understand – and eradicate – cancer

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The convergence of 3D assembly technologies such as 3D printing and electrospinning with cell therapy advancements is allowing researchers an unprecedented look into the mechanics of cellular behavior to study the development of diseases such as cancer.

By allowing the construction of three dimensional model systems, we are now able to look into the behavior of cells at the microscopic level by placing cells in synthetic environments that more closely resemble their native ones.

A key to constructing such 3D systems is the use of biological matrix proteins including fibronectin, vitronectin, laminin, collagen and elastin.

A new study by Dr. Wei Sun’s lab at Drexel University is further proof of this.

In the study, titled “Three-dimensional printing of Hela cells for cervical tumor model in vitro,” the authors 3D printed a tumor-like structure with gelatin, fibrous proteins including fibronectin, and cervical cancer cells layer by layer.

This generated a structure that resembled the fibrous proteins that make up the extracellular matrix of a tumor.

Cell proliferation was compared between the 3D model system and a regular 2D plate system. The results showed that Hela cells showed a higher proliferation rate in the 3D printed system where they formed cellular spheroids, but formed monolayer cell sheets in 2D culture. Moreover, a cell viability of over 90% was observed using the 3D printing process.

The study, published in Biofabrication, can be accessed here.

Another recent study, titled “Regulators of Metastasis Modulate the Migratory Response to Cell Contact under Spatial Confinement” and published by Dr. Anand Ashtagiri’s lab at Northeastern University focused on studying the migration and development of cancer cells.

To study this, they also used a model ECM system with fibronectin, which provided a substrate for cell migration.

The study highlights a characteristic fibrillar dimension at which effective sliding was achieved.

Both studies are examples of the critical role ECM proteins play in the development of model systems to study cell-based disease modeling.

Understanding how these ECM proteins work is the key to studying how they can be used in modeling cell migration and disease development. A supplier like Akron possesses a wide knowledge base of expertise that includes not only sourcing of these proteins, but also their mode of action and the ways in which they can be implemented in bioassays and 3D systems.

Options like viral inactivation – an Akron industry first – further enhance the clinical utility of these proteins. Contact us to discuss.

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