Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Use the Force

Forces at play in 3D tumour cell cultures called spheroids – insight into how cancers grow

29 June 2020

Use the Force

For a tumour to spread and grow, its cells must pull against the surrounding microenvironment of supporting molecules like elastic collagen. This jostling for space generates tension inside the cell – a struggle that drugs might exploit to limit cancerous growth. To investigate these forces, here researchers swap real tumours for lab-grown tumour ‘spheroids’ (black) which strain against the surrounding collagen under a microscope, creating starburst patterns of ‘deformations’ over a 12 hour period (top left to bottom right). Mathematical models simulate these patterns with the aim of predicting the contractility of different spheroids – how much their internal structure contracts when straining. Similar techniques could be used to predict the response of tumours growing in different tissue environments and provide a model for testing drugs aiming to push back on cancer.

Written by John Ankers

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