Using synthetic cell scaffolds to replace animal testing in cancer research

Using synthetic cell scaffolds to replace animal testing in cancer research

In the field of cancer research, the idea that scientists can disrupt cancer growth by changing the environment in which cancerous cells divide is growing in popularity. The primary way researchers have tested this theory is to conduct experiments using animals. Smitha Rao's cell scaffolding research aims to replace animal testing in cancer research with electrospun synthetics. Rao, assistant professor of biomedical engineering at Michigan Technological University, recently published "Engineered three-dimensional scaffolds modulating fate of breast cancer cells using stiffness and morphology related cell adhesion" in the journal IEEE Open Journal of Engineering in Medicine and Biology . Rao's coauthors are doctoral student Samerender Hanumantharao, master's student Carolynn Que and undergraduate student Brennan Vogl, all Michigan Tech biomedical engineering students. Standardizing with synthetics When cells grow inside the body, they require something known as an extra-cellular matrix (ECM) on which to grow, just like a well-built house requires a strong foundation. To study how cells grow on ECMs, researchers need to source the matrices from somewhere. "Synthetic ECMs are created by electrospinning matrices from polymers such as polycaprolactone and are more consistent for research than using cells from different kinds of animals," Hanumantharao said. "In my lab the focus has been on standardizing the process and using synthetic materials to keep the same chemical formulation of a scaffold, but change the physical structure of the fibers that are produced," Rao said, noting that changing the type of polymer or adding solvents to polymers introduces too many variables, which could affect the way cells grow on the scaffolds. Rao and her fellow researchers, therefore, can compare separate cell lines with different scaffold alignments by changing just one aspect of the experiment: voltage. Related Stories



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