Researchers at Hokkaido University have developed a micro-patterned cell culture platform to study the behavior of pancreatic cancer cells. The new cell culture substrate revealed previously unknown and clinically relevant pancreatic cell behaviors that could help researchers to develop new therapies.
“Cancer studies so far either use cell cultures in which cancer cells don’t necessarily behave naturally, or tissue samples that don’t allow live observation,” said Yukiko Miyatake, a researcher involved in the study. “So, there is a big gap in our knowledge of how cancer cells actually behave.”
To address this, Miyatake and colleagues developed a completely new and easy to produce cell culture platform. They set their sights on pancreatic cancer, one of the most lethal tumors. The researchers experimented with micropatterned glass surfaces, to allow for easy microscopic observations and an easy-to-produce cell culture platform. The team used a plasma etching system to create the micropatterned surface.
They found that if they etched small islands with a 30 μm diameter into the glass surface, pancreatic tumor cells cultured on top would self-assemble into micro-tumors. The tumors can move in a coordinated way, as if they were a single organism. Strikingly, the microtumors also demonstrated some previously unknown behaviors.
For example, the researchers observed the tumors “fishing” for nearby dead cells, before ingesting the cells. Subsequently, chemical markers typical of dead cells ended up on the surface of the living tumor, which may serve as a method of masking the tumor from the immune system. The researchers hope that the new culture device could lead to clinically-relevant discoveries.
“I hope this easy and low-cost technique will find widespread adoption,” said Miyatake. “If the discoveries made during these first observations are physiologically or pathologically relevant phenomena, many more new hints may be gleaned for the development of more effective cancer treatment approaches.”
See a video of the microtumors below:
Study in Scientific Reports: Visualising the dynamics of live pancreatic microtumours self-organised through cell-in-cell invasion…
Via: Hokkaido University…