Prostate cancer affects the lives of one in seven men, but examining the early stages of the disease can be a challenge. Pictured under a high-powered microscope, this sponge-like scaffold (coloured grey) is riddled with holes – just the thing for watching prostate cancer cells (blue) weave themselves into a tumour, pushing and pulling at the artificial structure as they grow. In fact, many cancers rely on the stiffness of their surrounding environment – the extracellular matrix – for support. Made at freezing temperatures from a material called cryogel, this artificial scaffold mimics the elastic nature of a prostate tumour. Researchers are now exploring the possibility of growing healthy and cancerous prostate cells on similar scaffolds, simulating the progression of the disease to test new chemotherapies ahead of clinical trials.
Written by John Ankers
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