Good news for the development of breast cancer research

Spanish researchers develop 'bioink' for 3D bioprinting of tumors using pig tissue

A CIBER-BBN team from the Institute of Bioengineering of Catalonia (IBEC) has developed a new model of breast cancer that recreates the complexity of the composition of breast tumors.

It is a ‘bio-ink’ composed of pig breast tissue from which the cells have been removed and which serves as the basis for the growth of human cancer cells.

The work, led by Elisabeth Engel, principal investigator of the CIBER-BBN/IBEC group on biomaterials for regenerative therapies and professor at the Polytechnic University of Catalonia (UPC), was published in the scientific journal ‘ACS Appl. Mother. Interfaces’.

The breast cancer It is the most diagnosed cancer in women, with approximately 2.3 million new cases worldwide each year, which means that 1 in 12 women will suffer from this disease throughout her life.

Despite its high incidence, breast cancer remains a challenge for doctors and researchers because, due to the high complexity of the tumor tissue and the tumor “microenvironment”, it is very difficult to reproduce the real conditions in the laboratory. for study and treatment.

A tumor is formed by cancer cells, that behave and divide abnormally and that are integrated into the microenvironment around them. The tumor microenvironment is composed of the extracellular matrix (ECM), a wide variety of epithelial cells, cells of the immune system, fat cells (adipocytes), soluble growth factors and hormones, among others.

The extracellular matrix it is an important part of this microenvironment, as it is involved in tumor growth and drug efficacy. Moreover, its complexity is one of the factors that most limits the study of breast cancer. The extracellular matrix would be like a kind of very complex support with very precise mechanical, biological and chemical characteristics, where cancer cells develop. To make a comparison with a bird’s nest, straw, leaves, branches and other materials that make up the nest would be the ECM that allows the development of eggs, in this example, cancer cells.

In order to recreate this complex ECM, the team used Female pig mammary tissue, taking advantage of the great similarity between the genomes of pigs and humans, and that it is a tissue that can be obtained easily and in large quantities.

Through different procedures, they removed the pig cells from the breast tissue, leaving only the ECM. This material, which they call bioink, is what will serve as the basis for the next steps and the tumor development in the laboratory.

“We were able to develop, for the first time, a bioink from breast tissue devoid of its cells capable of mimicking the mechanical and biochemical characteristics of the extracellular matrix of the human breast” explains B├írbara Blanco-Fern├índez, first author of the study. .

Once this bioink, formed by the ECM of porcine mammary tissue, was obtained, the team used it to Generate a human breast tumor by 3D bioprinting. To do this, human cancer cells, factors such as type 1 collagen (found in large quantities in breast tumors) and other components that maintain the ideal structure and hardness of the tumor have been added to the bioink. . This mixture is printed in 3D and after a few days of incubation, under appropriate and perfectly controlled conditions, a human mammary tumor is obtained.

The new bioink developed highlights the importance of recreating the complexity of the extracellular matrix and at the same time the great potential of these materials for the fabrication of tumor models by 3D bioprinting for the study of cancer. Moreover, this model opens the door to the development of more effective therapies and personalized treatments, since tumors can be made from patients’ cells.

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