Issue Date: August 3, 2009
Collagen Nests For Cancer Cell Tests
Pluck some cancer cells from a tumor, culture them in the smooth wells of a plastic plate, and soon their behavior will change—potentially skewing the results of assays. By seeding cancer cells onto textured materials that mimic their native environment, researchers can build better assays, according to Olga Hartman, John F. Rabolt, and their colleagues at the University of Delaware (Biomacromolecules, DOI: 10.1021/bm8012764). Hartman prepared the scaffolds by electrospinning collagen and then incubating it with prostate cancer cells that are ordinarily hard to culture. Although they are an excellent model of metastatic prostate cancer, the C4-2B lines that she used do not adhere well to the plastic used in traditional tissue culture and thus are rarely used by researchers. On Hartman's membranes with microfibrous structures, however, the cells thrived and resisted apoptosis-inducing drugs as if they were still in the body. The same cells appeared far more vulnerable when drugged in a classic tissue-culture system, making the medications appear more effective than they really are. With further development, the fibrous materials could be used in high-throughput drug screening experiments, Hartman says.
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