The film "Avatar" isn't the only 3-D blockbuster making a splash this winter. A team of scientists from Houston's Texas Medical Center this week unveiled a new technique for growing 3-D cell cultures, a technological leap from the flat petri dish that could save millions of dollars in drug-testing costs. The research is reported in Nature Nanotechnology.
The 3-D technique is easy enough for most labs to set up immediately. It uses magnetic forces to levitate cells while they divide and grow. Compared with cell cultures grown on flat surfaces, the 3-D cell cultures tend to form tissues that more closely resemble those inside the body.
"There's a big push right now to find ways to grow cells in 3-D because the body is 3-D, and cultures that more closely resemble native tissue are expected to provide better results for preclinical drug tests," said study co-author Tom Killian, associate professor of physics at Rice. "If you could improve the accuracy of early drug screenings by just 10 percent, it's estimated you could save as much as $100 million per drug."
For cancer research, the "invisible scaffold" created by the magnetic field goes beyond its potential for producing cell cultures that are more reminiscent of real tumors, which itself would be an important advance, said co-author Wadih Arap, professor in the David H. Koch Center at The University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center.
To make cells levitate, the research team modified a combination of gold nanoparticles and engineered viral particles called "phage" that was developed in the lab of Arap and Renata Pasqualini, also of the Koch Center. This targeted "nanoshuttle" can deliver payloads to specific organs or tissues.
"A logical next step for us will be to use this additional magnetic property in targeted ways to explore possible applications in the imaging and treatment of tumors," Arap said.
The 3-D modeling raises another interesting long-term possibility. "This is a step toward building better models of organs in the lab," Pasqualini said.
The new technique is an example of the innovation that can result when experts come together from disparate fields. Killian studies ultracold atoms and uses finely tuned magnetic fields to manipulate them. He had been working with Rice bioengineer Robert Raphael for several years on methods to use magnetic fields to manipulate cells. So when Killian's friend Glauco Souza, then an Odyssey Scholar studying with Arap and Pasqualini, mentioned one day that he was developing a gel that could load cancer cells with magnetic nanoparticles, it led to a new idea.
"We wondered if we might be able to use magnetic fields to manipulate the cells after my gels put magnetic nanoparticles into them," said Souza, who left M.D. Anderson in 2009 to co-found Nano3D Biosciences (www.n3dbio.com), a startup that subsequently licensed the technology from Rice and M.D. Anderson.
The nanoparticles in this case are tiny bits of iron oxide. These are added to a gel that contains phage. When cells are added to the gel, the phage causes the particles to be absorbed into cells over a few hours. The gel is then washed away, and the nanoparticle-loaded cells are placed in a petri dish filled with a liquid that promotes cell growth and division.
In the new study, the researchers showed that by placing a coin-sized magnet atop the dish's lid, they could lift the cells off the bottom of the dish, concentrate them and allow them to grow and divide while they were suspended in the liquid.
A key experiment was performed in collaboration with Jennifer Molina, a graduate student in the laboratory of Maria-Magdalena Georgescu, an M.D. Anderson associate professor in neuro-oncology and also a co-author, in which the technique was used on brain tumor cells called glioblastomas. The results showed that cells grown in the 3-D medium produced proteins that were similar to those produced by gliobastoma tumors in mice, while cells grown in 2-D did not show this similarity.
Souza said that Nano3D Biosciences is conducting additional tests to compare how the new method stacks up against existing methods of growing 3-D cell cultures. He said he is hopeful that it will provide results that are just as good, if not better, than longstanding techniques that use 3-D scaffolds.
Raphael, a paper co-author, associate professor in bioengineering and a member of Rice's BioScience Research Collaborative, said, "The beauty of this method is that it allows natural cell-cell interactions to drive assembly of 3-D microtissue structures. The method is fairly simple and should be a good point of entry in 3-D cell culturing for any lab that's interested in drug discovery, stem cell biology, regenerative medicine or biotechnology."
Other co-authors include Daniel Stark and Jeyarama Ananta, both of Rice; Carly Levin of Nano3D Biosciences; and Michael Ozawa, Lawrence Bronk, Jami Mandelin, James Bankson and Juri Gelovani, all of M.D. Anderson.
The research was funded by M.D. Anderson's Odyssey Scholar Program, the Department of Defense's Breast Cancer Research Program, the National Science Foundation, the Packard Foundation, the Gillson-Longenbaugh Foundation, AngelWorks, the National Institutes of Health and the National Cancer Institute.
Jade Boyd | Rice University
Biochemical 'fingerprints' reveal diabetes progression
22.08.2017 | Umea University
When fish swim in the holodeck
22.08.2017 | University of Vienna
Whether you call it effervescent, fizzy, or sparkling, carbonated water is making a comeback as a beverage. Aside from quenching thirst, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have discovered a new use for these "bubbly" concoctions that will have major impact on the manufacturer of the world's thinnest, flattest, and one most useful materials -- graphene.
As graphene's popularity grows as an advanced "wonder" material, the speed and quality at which it can be manufactured will be paramount. With that in mind,...
Physicists at the University of Bonn have managed to create optical hollows and more complex patterns into which the light of a Bose-Einstein condensate flows. The creation of such highly low-loss structures for light is a prerequisite for complex light circuits, such as for quantum information processing for a new generation of computers. The researchers are now presenting their results in the journal Nature Photonics.
Light particles (photons) occur as tiny, indivisible portions. Many thousands of these light portions can be merged to form a single super-photon if they are...
For the first time, scientists have shown that circular RNA is linked to brain function. When a RNA molecule called Cdr1as was deleted from the genome of mice, the animals had problems filtering out unnecessary information – like patients suffering from neuropsychiatric disorders.
While hundreds of circular RNAs (circRNAs) are abundant in mammalian brains, one big question has remained unanswered: What are they actually good for? In the...
An experimental small satellite has successfully collected and delivered data on a key measurement for predicting changes in Earth's climate.
The Radiometer Assessment using Vertically Aligned Nanotubes (RAVAN) CubeSat was launched into low-Earth orbit on Nov. 11, 2016, in order to test new...
A study led by scientists of the Max Planck Institute for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter (MPSD) at the Center for Free-Electron Laser Science in Hamburg presents evidence of the coexistence of superconductivity and “charge-density-waves” in compounds of the poorly-studied family of bismuthates. This observation opens up new perspectives for a deeper understanding of the phenomenon of high-temperature superconductivity, a topic which is at the core of condensed matter research since more than 30 years. The paper by Nicoletti et al has been published in the PNAS.
Since the beginning of the 20th century, superconductivity had been observed in some metals at temperatures only a few degrees above the absolute zero (minus...
16.08.2017 | Event News
04.08.2017 | Event News
26.07.2017 | Event News
22.08.2017 | Life Sciences
22.08.2017 | Life Sciences
22.08.2017 | Life Sciences