Now a team of engineers has developed a three-dimensional hydrogel that more closely mimics conditions in the brain. In a paper in the journal Biomaterials, the researchers describe the new material and their approach, which allows them to selectively tune up or down the malignancy of the cancer cells they study.
Hyaluronic acid (HA) is a key component of the extracellular matrix that provides structural and chemical support to cells throughout the body. HA contributes to cell proliferation and cell migration, and local changes in HA levels have been implicated in tumor growth.
In the new study, Pedron observed how glioma cells behaved in two different hydrogels – one based on methacrylated gelatin (GelMA) and the other using a more conventional polyethylene glycol (PEG) biomaterial. These two materials vary in one important trait: GelMA is a naturally derived material that contains adhesive sites that allow cells to latch onto it; synthetic PEG does not.
“The purpose of having these two systems was to isolate the effect of HA on glioma cells,” Pedron said. If changing HA levels produced different effects in different gels, that would indicate that the gels were contributing to those effects, she said.
Instead, Harley and Pedron found that additions of HA to glioma cells had “very similar” effects in both materials. Adding too little or too much HA led to reduced malignancy, while incorporating just enough HA led to significantly enhanced malignancy. This held true for multiple types of glioblastoma multiforme cells. This suggests that “it’s the HA itself that is likely the cause for this malignant change,” Harley said.
“If you have a material that allows you to selectively tune up or down malignancy, that will allow you to ask lots of questions about treatment methods for more malignant or less malignant forms of glioma. It also will allow scientists to try to get a response that’s closer to what you see in the body,” he said.
“If you talk to pathologists, they’ll say a biomaterial will never allow you to grow a full brain tumor, which is probably true,” Harley said. “But it’s realistic to think that a well-designed biomaterial will allow you to study aspects of glioma growth and treatment in a way that’s much richer than simply looking in a petri dish and much more accessible than trying to study tumor development within the brain itself.”The U. of I. department of chemical and biomolecular engineering, the Institute for Genomic Biology and the Campus Research Board supported this research.
The paper, “Regulation of Glioma Cell Phenotype in 3D Matrices by Hyaluronic Acid,” is available online.
Diana Yates | University of Illinois
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Controlling electronic current is essential to modern electronics, as data and signals are transferred by streams of electrons which are controlled at high speed. Demands on transmission speeds are also increasing as technology develops. Scientists from the Chair of Laser Physics and the Chair of Applied Physics at Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg (FAU) have succeeded in switching on a current with a desired direction in graphene using a single laser pulse within a femtosecond ¬¬ – a femtosecond corresponds to the millionth part of a billionth of a second. This is more than a thousand times faster compared to the most efficient transistors today.
Graphene is up to the job
At the productronica trade fair in Munich this November, the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT will be presenting Laser-Based Tape-Automated Bonding, LaserTAB for short. The experts from Aachen will be demonstrating how new battery cells and power electronics can be micro-welded more efficiently and precisely than ever before thanks to new optics and robot support.
Fraunhofer ILT from Aachen relies on a clever combination of robotics and a laser scanner with new optics as well as process monitoring, which it has developed...
Plants and algae use the enzyme Rubisco to fix carbon dioxide, removing it from the atmosphere and converting it into biomass. Algae have figured out a way to increase the efficiency of carbon fixation. They gather most of their Rubisco into a ball-shaped microcompartment called the pyrenoid, which they flood with a high local concentration of carbon dioxide. A team of scientists at Princeton University, the Carnegie Institution for Science, Stanford University and the Max Plank Institute of Biochemistry have unravelled the mysteries of how the pyrenoid is assembled. These insights can help to engineer crops that remove more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere while producing more food.
A warming planet
Our brains house extremely complex neuronal circuits, whose detailed structures are still largely unknown. This is especially true for the so-called cerebral cortex of mammals, where among other things vision, thoughts or spatial orientation are being computed. Here the rules by which nerve cells are connected to each other are only partly understood. A team of scientists around Moritz Helmstaedter at the Frankfiurt Max Planck Institute for Brain Research and Helene Schmidt (Humboldt University in Berlin) have now discovered a surprisingly precise nerve cell connectivity pattern in the part of the cerebral cortex that is responsible for orienting the individual animal or human in space.
The researchers report online in Nature (Schmidt et al., 2017. Axonal synapse sorting in medial entorhinal cortex, DOI: 10.1038/nature24005) that synapses in...
Whispering gallery mode (WGM) resonators are used to make tiny micro-lasers, sensors, switches, routers and other devices. These tiny structures rely on a...
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